Joburg hospital taking precautions after several nurses test positive for Covid-19

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Darren Stewart, Gallo Images
  • Several nurses at Linksfield Netcare in Orange Grove in Johannesburg have tested positive for Covid-19. 
  • A nurse employed at the hospital, and currently in isolation, accuses the hospital of not acting in accordance with health protocols. 
  • The hospital, however, says all is in order, and cleaning and disinfection have taken place. 

Several nurses at Linksfield Netcare Hospital in Orange Grove, Johannesburg, have reportedly contracted Covid-19.

According to one of those who tested positive, at least 15 had their results come back positive.  

Speaking to News24 on Friday, one of the nurses, *Bonani Mthembu, said he works at the ICU unit at the hospital, along with over 20 other colleagues.

He said they had decided to take voluntary tests for the virus, as a safety measure, because they are on the frontline. 

Mthembu said, by Thursday, 15 of the nurses who had tested were positive, and they immediately went into isolation. 

They are concerned about the manner in which their employer has treated them, after they were told they had contracted the virus from their communities. 

The nurse alleges that deep cleaning had not taken place at the facility and, while they were in isolation, nurses from agencies were outsourced to run the ICU.

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He added that keeping the unit open was problematic and worrying to them because "clearly there is a problem with the ICU itself".

"They even suggested that, since we tested positive, if we don't see symptoms in the next seven days, then we are good to come back to work. Of which the directive from the government says you self-isolate for 14 days, test again and, if you are negative, return to work. 

"So we feel like this is an employer that is just worried about money. They have removed their minds from the whole pandemic and just concentrating on business as usual," he said. 

Preventative measures in place

In a response to News24, the hospital denied this, and said its management took immediate and comprehensive action to prevent the spread after a "few staff members tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day".  

It told News24 that it was the hospital's policy not to provide details on how many staff members were affected. 

"In consultation with staff members at the hospital, we decided to implement preventative surveillance screening after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19, which is believed to have been community-acquired. We have been extremely vigilant and have acted with an abundance of caution in preventing the spread.

"Based on [the] World Health Organisation's risk grading of exposure, the hospital is in full adherence of Netcare as well as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases [NICD] and the Department of Health guidelines for the testing, quarantine and isolation of all affected staff members," hospital general manager Dr Louis van der Hoven said in the statement. 

Mthembu said his symptoms were mild, although he did experience chest irritation and headaches before testing.

He said his colleagues decided to test after he got his results. 

Calling for the unit to be closed

The nurse said they are calling for the institution to allow affected colleagues to retest before returning to work after 14 days.  

"According to my understanding, when I spoke to one of the managers, they were going to get rid of the patients that were there and maybe transfer them to other facilities and clean the place. But, up to so far, nothing is happening. This is now three days back.

"We want the hospital's ICU unit closed and cleaned, and nurses to isolate for 14 days, retest, and then not be told it comes from your leave or annual time - it should be the hospital time." 

But the hospital said the facility had been deep cleaned and disinfected, and remains open and operational, with doctors and staff members being kept informed of the situation. 

It has also introduced additional precautionary measures, including tracking, tracing and testing of everyone who may have been in contact with the affected staffers. 

Van Der Hoven said 14 days of monitoring and self-isolation for staff, who tested positive, were also in place.

"Netcare will provide assistance where required, and retesting once this quarantine period is completed.

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"We have deep cleaned, disinfected and decontaminated the kitchen and canteen areas, and continue to terminally clean all areas and equipment in the hospital on a regular basis, which included the deployment of an ultraviolet disinfection robot."

South West region Netcare Hospitals director Sandile Mbele said the group continued conducting training at its facilities and has also implemented comprehensive measures to detect, identify and respond appropriately to any suspected or confirmed cases at its facilities, including Linksfield Hospital.

Describing the experience of being on the ground during the lockdown, Mthembu said: "It's been very difficult, and I believe that nurses have tried their level best, but we are not being met halfway by the people we work for."

*Bonani Mthembu is not the nurse's real name. 

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