Department of Health fails Fort England Covid-19 response

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

The Fort England Psychiatric Hospital, in Makhanda, has a full 40 bed unit to accommodate patients who test positive for Covid-19, but not a single professional nurse to work in it.

This was revealed in an oversight visit conducted by myself and my colleague, Shadow Minister of Health Siviwe Gwarube, MP, from the National Assembly.

The hospital management has made an impressive effort to rearrange the space available to create a 40 bed unit, with separate wards for males and females.

However, despite a formal request to the Department of Health for staff to manage this unit and to provide all the necessary equipment, including Oxygen, nothing has been forthcoming.

This is just one more sign of a department that is totally oblivious to the needs of its own facilities.

As with many other health institutions across the province, Fort England have suffered from high staff infection rates, with more than 50 healthcare workers testing positive.

This impacts very negatively on staff morale. Healthy staff are then placed under even more strain, with long working hours and double shifts.

However, the department seems to have no staff replacement policy in place to provide relief to these facilities.

A further challenge is that healthcare workers who wish to be tested, to ensure that they are negative and can thus return to work, are told they will only be tested if they are symptomatic.

This has added to the chaos provincially as hundreds of nurses who are potentially negative are forced to sit at home in quarantine.

A further challenge is the uncertainty around when they will receive further stocks of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which has resulted in them having to re-use disposable items in contravention of Covid-19 guidelines.

I will be writing to the MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, to urge her to address these departmental failures as a matter of urgency, as further delays could have deadly consequences for Fort England.