The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health will be working on protocols to mitigate the closure of facilities when medical staff is infected, says Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu.
This after 16 people, including two babies as well as doctors and nurses, tested positive for Covid-19 at the General Justice Gizenga Mpanzi Memorial Hospital (formerly Stanger Hospital), which resulted in it being shut this week.
"We decided to immediately stop people from coming to the hospital to manage the facility as well as to understand the extent of the infection. We have done that. As soon as we have cleaned it up and have been able to test everyone, then we will re-open it."
Simelane-Zulu said this protocol might change going forward as Covid-19 infections peaked in South Africa.
"This will not be the protocol all the time. We are continuously going to have infections at hospitals and different community areas. We are right now working on a protocol on how to move forward in such an instance."
She added in future, only wards could be restricted.
"Normally, when a ward has been infected, that ward is closed down and patients are moved and tested. Moving forward, that is what will happen."
Simelane-Zulu said in the instance of General Justice Gizenga Mpanzi Memorial Hospital, the department was still in the first stage of containing the infection.
"Because we wanted to act very quickly, we did not want the virus to go further than where it has. That is why we closed the facility.
"Those in the facility are still there and will be tested. We have just stopped allowing people in. Some will be moved if it is necessary to do so."
She said the public would be directed to nearby hospitals.
Shortly before the closure of the hospital this week, nursing staff went on strike after they claimed not enough had been done to protect them.
"We condemn the action by staff. We are going to investigate as a department to understand what led to that kind of action.
"It is a worry when health workers, in particular, begin to be infected. We decided as a department on the training of nurses [at the hospital] to see if PPE [personal protective equipment] is being utilised correctly.
"We have a sense of how the virus got into the facility. It was not through our healthcare workers. It was brought in through a patient," Simelane-Zulu said on Tuesday.
READ | Another KZN hospital closes its doors after two babies, 14 others test positive for Covid-19
She added a woman reportedly did not disclose her husband was one of the positive cases linked to a supermarket chain store in Ballito.
"We have instituted an urgent investigation by our Communicable Diseases Control and IPC experts which will seek to establish, among others, how the virus was able to spread at such a rapid rate within the hospital."
Simelane-Zulu said all Covid-19-positive staff and patients have been isolated.
The hospital, with 219 patients, has effectively been turned into a quarantine site.
"All staff and patients in the surgical ward and ICU have been tested," she added.