More hospitals should be inspected by the department of employment & labour across the Eastern Cape.
This is the call by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa).
They made this call after Frere Hospital in East London was ordered to immediately shut down over concerns that its measures for stopping Covid-19, including access control, were inadequate.
Denosa said what happened at Frere was the “tip of the iceberg”.
On Sunday, the labour department reinspected the hospital after a virtual meeting between premier Oscar Mabuyane and minister Thulas Nxesi, following the notice that was issued last Tuesday.
The hospital recorded its first Covid-19 related case last month, and scores of nurses downed tools at the beginning of the month over safety concerns amid rocketing cases of the virus.
They were demanding provision of adequate PPE and testing.
In a joint statement, the political heads said it was important that government institutions, especially hospitals that provide healthcare to the public, comply with all the regulations and laws set up by government.
However, Denosa provincial secretary Khaya Sodidi said the health department was failing “dismally” to deal with Covid-19.
“We support the closure of that hospital,” Sodidi said.
“Our main concern, which is something we raised when the pandemic started, is the readiness of our state institutions to deal with Covid-19.
“If one big institution such as Frere is closed because of non-compliance, how much more [of a problem] are the hospitals in rural areas? All is not well in the province.
“The nurses are being used as scapegoats for a failed healthcare system. There are things we have been raising for 10 years, such as the gross shortage of staff, the lack of working equipment and crumbling infrastructure.
“The issue of PPE comes at a time when the department cannot even procure small things.”
In their joint statement, Mabuyane and Nxesi agreed the government could not simply turn to court without first exploring existing intergovernmental relations platforms and avenues.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that state institutions, especially hospitals that provide healthcare to the public, comply with all the regulations and laws set up by the government.
“We take this decision not just guided by the rules of these departments but also by the public interest and the sensitive nature of this institution,” the statement read.
When the labour department returned to Frere on Sunday, inspectors from labour and officials from health inspected the entire hospital together.
“If the department of health does not agree with the outcomes of this follow-up inspection, it will lodge an appeal with the chief inspector of the department of employment & labour,” the statement said.
Mabuyane said it was a distortion of facts to suggest that the hospital was not fit to handle [Covid-19].
“You can talk about certain aspects…those aspects the department must be allowed to fix.”
Mabuyane said there were huge gaps in how the issue was handled, and the department of health must fully comply.
“There is no short cut around this issue. It is important, it’s about the safety of our people.
“We have to make it a point that we leave no stone unturned on that aspect. ”
He said the discussion with Nxesi was to get the issue sorted in the best possible manner.
“Today [Sunday] is the day that everything must be sorted. We have given them [inspectors] that deadline to get everything done according to the law and the department [of health] must comply.”
He said they were expecting it to be done and that there was no need for court action.