Covid-19 vaccination: Chaos at Tshwane's Steve Biko Hospital as doctors queue for jabs

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Steve Biko
Academic Hospital.
Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
Sesona Ngqakamba
  • Health workers expressed anger and disappointment after waiting for hours to get the J&J jab at Steve Biko Hospital.
  • The hospital's CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula was vaccinated at the site on Wednesday.
  • Doctors also complained about an inefficient booking system and the late arrival of vaccine doses.

The weekend leg of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination drive left hundreds of doctors and nurses frustrated on Sunday as they waited for hours at Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria.

Dr Grace Kay-Eddie, a pulmonologist said:

No one can give a clear answer. There is no plan... if they cannot deal with a few thousand health professionals, imagine what the rollout for the rest of the South African population will be like. This is an absolute disaster.

Gauteng has two vaccination sites - Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

However, Baragwanath was closed for the weekend.

The health department's spokesperson, Motaletale Modiba, told News24 that Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital was not meant to cater for private practitioners this weekend.

"There was no planned operation [for] this first weekend. However, they're now ramping up their capacity, anticipating more people from tomorrow."

Kay-Eddie told News24 on Sunday that she first booked on the online booking system on 3 February, but had not received an invitation to get the jab.

She decided to register again on Saturday and then received a text, directing her to Steve Biko Hospital.

She said she arrived very early on Sunday morning and joined others already there.

"The queue snaked through two floors, with another long queue on the ground floor, leading up to the parking lot outside the hospital. We waited and waited for our turn, for hours. My issue is why weren't the nurses, doctors and cleaners working in ICU and looking after Covid-19 patients prioritised?

"I do not see why paediatricians and ophthalmologists should be first in the queue. It just doesn't make sense." 

Another medical practitioner, Dr Anneke du Toit, who is stationed in Pretoria, wrote in an email to News24:  

"Total chaos at Steve Biko for vaccinations. Vaccines arrived late, no regard for appointment times. Despite an appointment system, it is total chaos, with doctors who had appointments at Baragwanath also arriving... Queues everywhere... an absolute mess." 

Steve Biko hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula received her jab, along with the first few health workers, at the facility on Wednesday, the first day of the vaccination rollout for health practitioners. Gauteng Premier David Makhura said he would receive his at a later stage.

The confusion and disorder at Steve Biko Hospital this weekend is a far cry from Makhura's highly publicised event a few days ago.

READ | Vaccine rollout: 'Preventing corruption is something we must ensure' - Makhura

In a statement released on Sunday afternoon following the uproar, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi reassured healthcare workers in the province that none of them will be excluded from the national vaccination programme.

"We want to reassure our healthcare workers that there is no need to panic as none of them will be left behind. To do so would be catastrophic and will leave the system exposed as they are an integral part of the healthcare system," she said in a statement on Sunday.

She said the province has received 16 800 Johnson & Johnson doses, which are currently being administered at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (11 080 doses) and Steve Biko Academic Hospital (5 720 doses).

Mokgethi says that, as of 20 February, 2 134 healthcare workers, inclusive of organised labour leadership, who are health professionals as well, were vaccinated.

"The demand to get vaccinated has been growing since this programme started. We will continue engaging other stakeholders as we are all aware that the fight against Covid-19 is far from over and it requires collective effort," she added.

The department also called all healthcare workers, who are yet to register on the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS), to do so in order to ensure more people are vaccinated. She said the department would assist in managing the flow of traffic to the vaccination sites and "to avoid a situation where people just show up when they have no appointment".

Meanwhile, in KwaZulu-Natal, Premier Sihle Zikalala said at least 1 279 health practitioners had been vaccinated so far.

The province's vaccination sites are at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial and Albert Luthuli Hospitals in Durban.

"We believe this is a good start and would like to see these [vaccination] numbers increasing. We remain committed to ensuring every health worker in the province is vaccinated," Zikalala said during a briefing on Sunday, accompanied by Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu.

Simelane-Zulu said she was aware that general practitioners in the province had complained, through emails and on social media, that they were refused vaccination. She said this was not true.

"We need to correct that... it is unfortunate that people we hold high, as doctors, would peddle such untruths. Before arrangements could be made for vaccines to be made available for those in the catchment areas, general practitioners from other areas flocked to those areas.

"On Friday, the deputy director-general for clinical services met with doctors and it was  agreed that they will provide a list of GPs in catchment areas to ensure that they get vaccinated," she said.

A group of KwaZulu-Natal general practitioners had complained that Simelane-Zulu refused to talk to them about vaccinations, and that they were being turned away by hospitals.

-Additional reporting: Canny Maphanga

*This article has been updated to reflect that Premier David Makhura has not yet received a vaccine.

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