Coronavirus: Nurses at Sandton hospital raise concerns over safety, as union considers legal action

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A general view of Mediclinic Morningside in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)
A general view of Mediclinic Morningside in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

Nurses at Morningside Mediclinic in Sandton, Johannesburg, have raised concerns regarding exposure to Covid-19 and the response by the hospital's management.

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This is according to the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), which will now be consulting its legal team regarding whether the hospital took enough precautions to protect nurses from the virus.

The hospital, however, has maintained that it is taking stringent measures to protect staff and patients.

Mediclinic confirmed that 12 staff members, including nine healthcare workers, had tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

Management had since taken precautionary measures and said it would disinfect certain areas of the hospital.

Adequate measures

Denosa spokesperson Bongani Mazibuko could not yet determine if these measures were adequate to protect nurses, as the hospital had not been forthcoming with information.

"Denosa is consulting with its legal department on the best way forward, as Morningside Mediclinic management is not coming forth with information so the Union can determine the adequacy of measures being taken to protect Denosa members and all nurses at large within the institution," Masibuko said,

"Healthcare workers are at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19, and their safety must be upheld by provision of the necessary equipment, like personal protective equipment (PPE), to ensure they are able to continue fighting - their safety is our safety.

"We are concerned as to how the workers contracted the virus, and the steps taken by management (which have obviously failed in this instance) to prevent infection of workers," Mazibuko said.

Denosa has been advocating for nurses to be provided with adequate PPE when doing their jobs.

"We need to bear in mind that Sandton and Bedfordview are the epicentre of this disease and, as such, institutions private and public should take extra precautions in safeguarding their employees against this virus. It is also very important that training in the use of PPE be given to nurses," Mazibuko said.

Safety

In an unrelated statement on Wednesday, Mediclinic maintained that the safety of patients, staff and doctors was a "number one priority".

"Mediclinic has intensified both internal and external processes guiding our response. In accordance with our stringent protocols, Mediclinic 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," it said.

Mediclinic added that it had acted swiftly to mitigate risks.

"We can assure the community that we have established procedures relating to staff exposure, the risk thereof and testing."

Mediclinic said it would embark on a three-day risk assessment as part of the containment plan. This includes the closing of new admissions to the hospital, unless for emergencies, as well as deep sanitisation.

"Mediclinic has implemented Human Resources policies and procedures to address healthcare worker exposure, testing and infection, including the appropriate use of PPE."

It added that staff had been provided with PPE to prevent spreading the virus.

"Mediclinic has implemented firm measures in all our hospitals to reduce the risks in our facilities, such as temporarily suspending visiting hours, as well as terminating all elective cases to reduce the movement of people during lockdown," it added.

Mediclinic did not respond to specific questions sent by News24 on Wednesday.


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