Mediclinic has introduced stringent measures to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 at all of its hospitals. This after three people tested positive at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg on Friday. Earlier in the week its Morningside hospital closed new admissions after 15 staff tested positive.The three at the Pietermaritzburg hospital are a patient, healthcare worker and a person employed by an associated service provider.Mediclinic corporate communications manager Tertia Kruger said the patient had been admitted with no symptoms and had not met the case definition for testing. “Following the initial positive result, the individual has returned two negative results from different laboratory services. The patient remains in isolation with all the necessary precautions being taken, said Kruger. “In accordance with our stringent protocols, Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg immediately reviewed the situation to identify, as a matter of urgency, all staff, doctors and patients potentially exposed. The National Department of Health also has firm processes in place governing contact tracing of those exposed to a positive individual. “To date, all associated contacts have tested negative, and remain asymptomatic. Staff and contacts will remain in isolation and will not return to work until it is safe to do so,” she said.The hospital group has nationally implemented human resource policies and procedures to address healthcare worker exposure, testing and infection, including the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and recently published National Department of Health Infection Prevention Control (IPC) and Covid-19 guidelines. “All staff have been provided with appropriate PPE,” she said, and a strict hand hygiene and cleaning regime is in operation. “A very stringent access control policy is in place and all emergency admissions are strictly admitted to a dedicated admission ward where stringent IPC principles are applied,” she said.Kruger said measures across all their hospitals to reduce the risks included temporarily suspending visiting hours a well as terminating all elective cases to reduce the movement of people during lockdown. Already two private hospitals in the KZN Netcare group — St Augustine’s in Durban and the Kingsway Hospital in Amanzimtoti — have shut their doors after several staff and patients tested positive for Covid-19.Union leaders alleged that at St Augustine’s healthcare workers complained that they had not been provided with PPE, but at Kingsway there was no such complaint. They therefore needed to learn how healthcare workers were being infected.Black First Land First KZN provincial co-ordination committee chair Zizamele Dlamini expressed concern over the increasing number of frontline workers contracting Covid-19 in private hospitals. “We are also appalled by the general lack of capacity of KZN hospitals to respond to the health challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.”Dlamini called for more stringent measures to be in place in addition to the compulsory provision and use of PPE by all healthcare workers, adding hospitals should provide sanitising shower booths and disinfectants at every entrance where every person entering and leaving the hospital must be disinfected; that hospitals must employ the use of high quality cleaning equipment such as ultraviolet sanitisers; and hotels should be requested to assist with beds.Meanwhile, the KZN Department of Health has set up a team that will ensure oversight in all private hospitals.MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu confirmed at a briefing on Sunday the team will be visiting private hospitals in eThekweni, iLembe, uMgungundlovu first and then other areas in the province.“We will be visiting all private hospitals to see if they adhering to protocols, where they need assistance and where we can put our foot down and say you need to implement this or that, or else! “We are investigating several complaints, so we decided to be proactive and not wait for cases to pile up. The majority of the hospitals are co-operating and we are working quite well, but that does not mean where actions need to be taken, we won’t,” said Simelane-Zulu. The MEC also revealed that close to seven patients who receive dialysis treatment at a separate building on the St Augustine’s hospital property, as of Wednesday, had also tested positive.The MEC said the hospital has been allowed to keep the centre open because it assured her that no main hospital staff worked in the dialysis centre.The MEC said they had given St Augustine’s hospital a week from Wednesday to contact and test all those who had undergone dialysis at the unit and to find alternate places for those patients to receive dialysis.The portfolio committee on health in the KZN Legislature has also expressed their “great concern” over the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections in the private hospitals. Committee chairperson Nomakiki Majola said the committee questioned the preventative measures and infection control at the private hospitals.Majola said their biggest cause for concern was health-care workers who were moonlighting. “This is proving to be a huge risk and involves so much work with regards to contact tracing, as we are do not know how many people the infected workers have been in contact with. “Measures must really be put in place to stop moonlighting,” said Majola.