'They just refused to touch me': Patient claims being mistreated by nurses while in quarantine

  • Sylvia Seegers is angry at the way she was treated at Helen Joseph Hospital.
  • She says the nurses refused to touch her.
  • Seegers claims that her belongings were stolen.


Sylvia Segers, 61, alleges she was mistreated by staff at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg while in quarantine awaiting her Covid-19 results.

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Segers' account of her time in quarantine has revealed seemingly reluctant healthcare staff who are afraid to assist patients who might be infected.

In March, she was admitted to high care at the hospital with a high temperature and diarrhoea, which caused severe dehydration.

INFOGRAPHICS | Sharp drop in Covid-19 testing because of test kit shortage

Segers was admitted and told to check in her handbag and overnight bag, which contained her most essential documents and valuables, at the security desk.

While the doctor attending to her was sure she did not have the virus, she took precautionary measures when Segers' temperature would not subside and ordered a Covid-19 test to be conducted.

'They started laughing'

"From the moment they mentioned Covid, all these nurses in high care did not want to touch me at all … and they started laughing - all of them were laughing and calling me Gogo Corona.

"If I called for help, they just refused to touch me," Segers told News24.

All these nurses in high care did not want to touch me at all … and they started laughing - all of them were laughing and calling me Gogo Corona.
Sylvia Segers

The doctor placed her in a quarantine room at the hospital while she awaited her results, but her problems only worsened.

"When we went to quarantine, I opened my eyes and looked around and I could not believe what the room looked like.

"I got my bearings right and looked around and said, but this is not a room, this is not a ward, this is a storeroom.

"I started screaming for help for someone to come  I wanted to ask for help to say how can I be sleeping here?"

Segers said the room was filthy and dusty as if it had not been used in years. The windows were broken and could not close, letting a cold breeze in  a danger for someone, like Segers, who had a lung infection and was suspected of Covid-19.

Suffering

However, a nurse told Segers she needed "fresh air".

She added there was no bed or bathroom in the room only a "broken stretcher balancing on two chairs".

Segers, still suffering from diarrhoea, begged nurses for a bedpan, which one eventually gave her by sliding it under the door.

However, they refused to change the bedpan after it had been used, and allegedly told Segers: "I'm not touching your bedpan, I don't want your disease."  

READ | Sudden, unexplained spike in Covid-19 testing

She was made to sleep with the pan all night while suffering from diarrhoea.

Segers was also left with a tattered blanket – which nurses again slid under the door – which did not cover her body.

When she requested a new blanket, the nurses allegedly told her they would be burning the one she was using in the morning because she had Covid-19, telling they had no more blankets to spare.

Eventually the nurse kicked a new blanket into the room, Segers said.

Added to this, she noticed hours later that the machines connected to her IV cord was not plugged in.

"I noticed the drip wasn't going, then I noticed the antibiotic wasn't going. So, I called the nurse and said do you realise none of these machines are working, you must connect it.

"They [hadn’t] connect the machines at all… I called them again and [the nurse] just looked at me," Segers said, added the nurse was "rude to the core" and told her: "I've got children at home; I don't want to die with your disease."

During her one-day stay in quarantine, Segers said she was not given any food but that insulin was brought to her.

She said she had to get up from her bed with IV cords in her feet to collect the items that were slid into her room.

That night, she broke out into a cold sweat and her sugar levels dropped.

She felt lucky to make it through the night, saying "no one would know I'm in a coma".

The next day, when Segers' Covid-19 results came back negative, the doctor allowed her to be discharged, but not before she complained.

She said she asked the doctor whether he "would put his mother in this room", to which he replied he would not.

Stolen

A nurse fetched her belongings from security, but when her bags were returned she found some items were missing.

Her Sassa card, driver's licence, ID, money and cellphone had allegedly been stolen.

The security guard watching over the belongings acknowledged they had been checked in but did not mention whether someone had been through them.

Now stranded without a phone to call someone to fetch her, Segers pleaded for help from the nurses and security who refused.

Three and a half hours later, she managed to stop a young doctor who allowed her to make a call on her cellphone.

Traumatised

The ordeal has left Segers traumatised and angry.

According to Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana, the hospital was aware of this matter.

Kekana said Segers had been attended to from admission until discharge.

"The hospital's Infection Prevention and Control [IPC] unit regularly trains the overall staff on the management of Covid-19 patients under the national IPC guidelines.

"Customer care services were reinforced to all nursing staff. Positive staff attitude is encouraged and staff in-serviced on how to nurse a patient are under investigation," Kekana said.

"National IPC guidelines were followed. The standard precaution procedures were explained in detail to the patient. Through the quality assurance unit, the patient will be contacted for redress."

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