At least six Kingsway Hospital healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19, according to KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu-Simelane Zulu.
"As of yesterday, we are told that six healthcare workers have been infected," she told journalists in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.
Simelane-Zulu made the comments during Covid-19 mass screening at the Jika Joe informal settlement.
She said the numbers could increase as more test results for healthcare workers come in.
"Remember, we have tested all of them. So the results keep coming in gradually."
National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu told News24 that his members at the hospital reported that at least 40 health workers were screened and tested.
He said they were looking for more information but alleged that the hospital blocked them.
Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said he had mixed feelings about how the hospital handled the matter.
"We have mixed feelings about this case. At St Augustine's our members complained they did not have PPE (personal protective equipment) on time. Here, in Kingsway, there are no complaints on PPE. We need to find out how healthcare workers were infected if their PPEs were given."
Infection traced to one patient
The hospital has not responded to News24's request for comment on the number of infections since Wednesday afternoon.
It did, however, release a statement on Wednesday morning, confirming the closure of the hospital to new patients and that the infection was traced to one patient.
"Netcare today (Wednesday) confirmed that its KZN regional team and the hospital management at Netcare Kingsway Hospital have responded swiftly to managing the Covid-19 exposure at the hospital, and have temporarily closed the hospital for new admissions," the statement said.
Regional director for Netcare Craig Murphy said the origin of the exposure was traced to a patient who was admitted to hospital via the emergency department on 4 April for a suspected stroke.
"Upon admission, the patient was risk assessed and screened for Covid-19 symptoms and exposure as per the Netcare protocol, which is aligned to the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] guidelines. The patient did not exhibit any signs of the virus and on questioning his family, no symptoms or exposure risks were reported."
High infection rate
Premier Sihle Zikalala said the government launched an investigation into Netcare Kingsway Hospital and St Augustine's in Durban to ascertain why the infection rate was so high.
Last week, St Augustine's reported 47 staff infections and the health department said there were at least five deaths of patients.
"Not only [are] the two (Kingsway and St Augustine's) leading infections, but in terms of fatalities, people are coming from these hospitals."
Zikalala added: "This is why we are doing everything possible to ensure that, despite global constraints, all of our foot soldiers and health workers in general have access to the personal protective equipment that they need."
According to Zikalala, the number of positive cases in KwaZulu-Natal is 519, with 18 deaths.
"The coronavirus outbreak represents a significant risk to the population of KZN and the country. If we do not make drastic changes to how we do things, it has the potential to cause high levels of morbidity and mortality and pose a threat to our social and economic security."
He said there were thus far 565 mass screening and testing teams, which amounts to 1 130 feet on the ground in the province.
"These teams work in pairs and are constituted mostly by enrolled nurses. In addition to that, there are 90 teams focusing on roadblocks, and 620 tracer teams providing contact tracing."