Nehawu furious after nurse dies of Covid-19: 'She was a breadwinner and she is gone now'

The outside of KwaMhlanga Hospital in Mpumalanga.
The outside of KwaMhlanga Hospital in Mpumalanga.
Balise Mabona/News24
  • A nurse working at KwaMhlanga Hospital died earlier this month.
  • Trade union Nehawu says the nurse died of Covid-19.
  • Themba Hospital, outside Mbombela, was shut on Monday as staff protested.

The Mpumalanga provincial leadership of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) on Friday accused the provincial health department of not sufficiently protecting its frontline workers after a nurse from KwaMhlanga Hospital died of Covid-19.

Provincial secretary of Nehawu, Welcome Mnisi, told News24 the nurse contracted Covid-19 on duty at KwaMhlanga Hospital and was transferred to Witbank Tertiary Hospital, where she died on 3 July.

He said she was buried on Monday this week.

"That woman was a breadwinner in her family and she is gone now," said Mnisi.

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"Her family no longer has a breadwinner. Many other health workers at other hospitals and clinics throughout the province are also not safe. They fear for their lives.

"They are raising complaints that they do not get relevant PPE [personal protective equipment] from the department. There is also an increase in the number of infections among the department's frontline workers."

Mnisi called on the health department to intensify the protection of health workers against Covid1-9.

He said psychotherapy and educational programmes, regarding the spread of Covid-19, must also be implemented at all the health institutions in the province.

Shut down

Themba Hospital in Kabokweni, near Mbombela, was shut down on Monday when its health workers staged a picket outside the premises to voice their grievances over a lack of relevant PPEs, added Mnisi.

"We are engaging the Department of Health to improve the working environment. We are saying this cannot happen like this," he said.

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Provincial health department spokesman Dumisani Malamule confirmed that a nurse had died of Covid-19 related conditions at Witbank Tertiary Hospital.

He insisted the department was always prioritising the safety of its staff.

"Under no circumstances will the department intentionally put its staff at risk, and the provision of PPEs is done according to guidelines," said Malamule.

"In recognising the amount of stress and anxiety related to taking care of Covid-19 patients, the department is providing counselling [to its staff] by using its clinical psychologists in different hospitals.

"The department continues to conduct training for all categories of healthcare workers and provides education to staff members on safety measures. The department is also providing PPEs to its workers on a regular basis."

The situation at Themba Hospital has returned to normal and the facility was fully operational on Friday, added Malamule.   

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