Saturday 11 April 2020


Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said an ongoing investigation into allegations of non-compliance at Netcare St Augustine's hospital in Durban will reveal how and why 48 nurses tested positive for Covid-19.

Speaking at a media briefing on Friday, Mkhize reaffirmed that the hospital had been closed, following his announcement earlier this week that 66 people at the private facility had tested positive for the virus. Forty-eight were nurses.

“That's a very large number of staff to be infected at a popular institution. Therefore, we have asked that the provincial government must institute an investigation in terms of why [and] how we ended up with so many people infected in one place — particularly if it's professionals,” he said.

He said the St Augustine's issue was “more serious” to the department because the first people they needed to ensure were safe and protected, were the health workers.

“They deal on a day-to-day basis with the infection. And the fact their training is actually 'contained infection' means that we all should know how to make sure that we can deal with the infection without acquiring infection as professionals. So we want that investigation so we make sure we find out what happened,” he said.

Later in the briefing he said: “You can’t defeat the Covid-19 virus if you can’t protect the soldiers.”
Mkhize remained concerned about the number of deaths at the hospital which, according to KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, stood at five. In total, 12 people have died related to Covid-19 in KwaZulu-Natal.

“One of the weaknesses in the private sector is that they sometimes have staff who are not fully employed — they are moonlighting — so there might be a break in the chain of information flow,” he said.

He said St Augustine's had been closed “a few days ago” and the closure meant that there were no new outpatients.

“A number of wards are closed and therefore the fumigation process has started, as was ordered by the department of health. There is a section which we have allowed them to keep open, which is detached from the main section.”

He said originally they had 80 patients still at the hospital, a number which has now been reduced to 58.

“Those patients can't be moved to another hospital, firstly the number was [too] high but secondly the hospital must begin to contain the patients themselves and create a unit that begins to look at what we call PUIs — a patient under investigation [sic].”

Meanwhile, SowetanLIVE reported on Thursday that the Public Servants Association of SA has written to Simelane-Zulu amid allegations that a nurse at the public Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban had tested positive for Covid-19.

At Friday's briefing, Simelane-Zulu said it was being investigated whether the nurse might have been moonlighting at St Augustine's Hospital. Times


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