‘We want to go home’

2020-03-23 06:56
Medical staff, with protective clothing, arriving to take the temperature of a driver during sanitary checks at Jedrzychowice border crossing, between Poland and Germany, in a measure to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Odd Andersen, AFP)

Medical staff, with protective clothing, arriving to take the temperature of a driver during sanitary checks at Jedrzychowice border crossing, between Poland and Germany, in a measure to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Odd Andersen, AFP)

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One of Addington Hospital’s four patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 and want to be released, said all they were asking for was “national consistency”. He said they were aware that over 100 positive patients were allowed to self-isolate at their homes.

He said, in an additional lawyer’s letter sent to the KZN MEC for Health on Friday, that they were willing to submit to any conditions imposed by the Health Department if released.

The four patients on Thursday evening, through their attorney, sent a letter to the KZN Department of Health saying they no longer want to be “kept captive by the state”.

They have been in isolation at the hospital for 11 days after testing positive after a trip with 10 others to Italy. The group returned on March 1 and seven of them, including Patient Zero and his wife – who have since been released in isolation at their home, testing positive.

Despite giving the KZN MEC for Health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu a deadline of replying to their demands by 12 noon on Friday, none was forthcoming even though she had submitted a statement to the media.

The group on Friday then issued another letter, through their attorney Mark Futcher, giving the MEC until the close of business on Friday to respond, failing which they would seek other relief, including an urgent order.

In the second letter, the four patients offered further conditional undertakings that included them being visited at any time by a health practitioner or member of the SAPS to ensure they are complying with their self-imposed quarantine and that they will make themselves available, as and when requested, by a state official for further testing and/or treatment.

“They reiterate their undertaking not to have any contact with any other persons during this quarantine period and will abide by any, or other, requirements set out by the state in regard to their self-quarantine,” read the letter.

The patient, who has been in contact with The Witness since his admission to the hospital, said on Friday that “this was not about us being unhappy with the facility”.

“This is about us being kept in a hospital ward for 11 days using state resources that are not required. Addington Hospital staff and doctors have been good and the facility is adequate. We have not pushed any request to transfer to a private hospital.

“We have been asking to be released to self-isolate at home, which the doctors and NICD are in agreement with, but the MEC for Health is not allowing it without reason to us.

“However, there are over 100 infected people in SA currently self-isolating at home, hence we are asking for consistency. Let the hospital beds be made available to those that need hospital care and let us go home to self-isolate until negative,” he said.

The patient questioned what would happen when beds ran out.

“The only treatment we received was testing vitals. How do you treat a patient that is asymptomatic?” he asked.

The KZN Department of Health did not respond to the lawyer’s letter but in a response on Friday said that they will not be “held ransom by any individuals who appear to seek special treatment”.

“We have an obligation to follow all clinical management protocols for confirmed cases. The National Health Act makes it very clear that if any person who is a clinical or laboratory confirmed case refuses to be tested, treated, isolated or quarantined, the head of the provincial Health Department is empowered to approach the high court for an appropriate order to force the person to comply. If we get pushed, we will not hesitate to go the legal route to safeguard the interests of the public,” said Simelane-Zulu.

The national Health Department did not respond to queries on the number of positive patients in isolation at hospitals and the allegation that 100 positive patients were in self-isolation at their homes.

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