The storm of the COVID-19 pandemic is with us and there is no going back now as earlier pronounced by the president of the country that lockdown was just to ensure that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed by the virus.
Now that regulations have been relaxed, we are now seing the scourge of increased reported cases especially among health workers.
When the large number of infections to health care workers in private sector surfaced, DENOSA was upfront raising the issue of safety in the workplace.
We kept on hearing that employers have enough PPE which was not making sense to us as infections amongst health care workers continued to rise.
DENOSA in KwaZulu-Natal respected the announcement made by the private sector employers and the MEC of Health in KZN that an investigation will be conducted to establish where were the infections coming from if PPE was available. We waited until today to hear the findings of such investigation which was going assist us on the causes or contributory factors to such infections.
Fast forward to the public sector, we are now experiencing the similar situation where, despite having enough PPE according to the department, the infection rate amongst health workers keeps on increasing every day and we have requested the department of health in the province to identify what could be the cause of these infections amongst health workers.
In doing our own investigations by discussing with our members who are nurses, we have recieved the following concerns across the province:
1. Nurses are given one surgical masks to use for the whole day, but there is no clear memo or circular from infection control to guide nurses on how to keep these masks when going for tea or lunch without contamination.
DENOSA recommends that for those nurses who work in areas that need surgical masks as per COVID-19 guidelines document to be given 3 surgical masks per day to ensure that nurses are safe.
2. Failure by immediate supervisors to ensure that there is enough PPE for
nurses working with Persons Under Investigation (PUI) and COVID-19 positive patients, as they are not given N95 as per guidelines. Instead, KN95 or surgical masks are used.
DENOSA demands that all nurses working with PUI and COVID-19 wards be given N95 masks.
3. Quality of the PPE
We have recieved complaints about the poor quality of surgical masks which are provided to our members. When you read the boxes which have these masks, they are written ‘this surgical mask is for use in non-medical environment’ or some are written ‘dust masks’. These types of masks are causing a lot of panic for our members who are still using them as they feel that these masks are not protecting them.
DENOSA have requested the office of the HOd to respond on the quality standards of the PPE in question (and DENOSA have the batch number of such PPE in question).
As a concerned professional organisation, we feel that the Department of Health in the province has the responsibility to pronounce clear that the PPE provided to our members meet all SANBS standards when it comes to safety. We have urged the department of health to investigate the causes of infections in the workplace and come out with mitigating factors.
“It is unfortunate that up until today, we have not been given even the scope of investigations about this scurge so that it is avoided before it claims many lives of our members,” says DENOSA KZN Provincial Secretary, Mandla Shabangu.
“Infections to health workers put unnecessary strain to those remaining at work because in a situation where more nurses are going for isolation and quarantine, the health system get affected negatively.”
The swift action is required before it is too late.
Issued by DENOSA in KwaZulu-Natal
For more information, contact:
Mandla Shabangu, DENOSA KZN Provincial Secretary