A department of correctional services official based at the East London prison in West Bank is in critical condition after being rushed to hospital on Tuesday.
The woman is one of 23 officials who have tested positive for Covid-19 at the facility, and had been quarantined in a guesthouse on the prison premises before her condition worsened.
But the officials, all of whom are women, say they have been abandoned by the department. Some even believe they “have been left to die”.
Two other officials carrying the virus had to ask colleagues to buy them medicine. They said they were promised they would receive regular medical attention and counselling, but this had not happened.
Covid-19 positive officials spoke to DispatchLIVE on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.
One official said she was deeply concerned about her colleague who was rushed to hospital on Tuesday.
“One of us had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance. Aren’t we supposed to be in hospital instead of being locked up in our homes and at these DCS guesthouses?”
She had been informed that her colleague was now in a critical condition at an East London hospital. They were told by management that they would be sent to public hospitals instead of private hospitals in the event of their conditions worsening.
“We are here for the next 14 days and others are getting sicker. Remember this has no cure. It would have been wise to have a specialist looking at our cases instead of being forced to go to public hospitals. We could escape, but we would be flagged and get arrested,” said the official.
Another infected colleague said they had been “dumped” by the department.
“It’s like we are suffering from leprosy and no one wants to come close to us. Even the regional commissioner and his deputy have not come. Instead we hear that they want to hold a teleconference with us. We are being stigmatised now. We got
this [Covid-19] while we were at work,” said the official.
She said they have not received any food or financial support from the department.
“I tell you, to prove that we are being stigmatised, the blankets, cutlery and removable furniture were taken away. We had to bring our own blankets and cutlery. There is no food. We have to club together to be able to buy something to eat. My worry is that two other officials are getting seriously ill now,” said the official.
Health department spokesperson Judy Ngoloyi said the officials who tested positive were being taken care of but “no-one is allowed come close to them”.
“They will feel neglected but they are not. The department liaises with them via telephone. Remember we are treating symptoms now and if one has become serious, they are rushed to hospital,” said Ngoloyi.
Ngoloyi was checking with the department of correctional services on the woman who had been rushed to hospital, but had received no information by print deadline on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the correctional services department issued a statement saying that their healthcare teams were on site at East London prison. But this could not be confirmed by those who have tested positive.
Correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo did not respond to queries about the infected officials.
However, he did confirm that the department was now investigating a soccer match played by inmates at Mdantsane prison on Monday.
DispatchLIVE was leaked video footage of the soccer match, watched by hundreds of other inmates.
“The incident did take place during exercise time. The matter is under investigation as all activities must be aligned to the standard operating procedure on Covid-19,” Nxumalo said.
“The department will further liaise with heads of correctional centres to ensure that inmates do get their one hour exercise per day, as in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules for the treatment of prisoners, but the activities they embark on must avoid contact sport.
“More critical is to ensure that there is social distancing, hence cells must take turns when they exercise,” said Nxumalo.
By: Bongani Fuzile