As KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) enters the eye of the Covid-19 pandemic storm, the number of problematic reports from healthcare facilities around the province continues to grow.
This while daily infections have unfortunately increased to more than 1 000 per day during the past week and as deaths as a result of the virus continue to rise.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) extends its deepest condolences to the families of those who have passed away as a result of this pandemic – a situation made all the worse by the fact that they are not able to provide comfort at this frightening time.
These difficult circumstances have confirmed the need for the initial hard lockdown, as well as the goodwill of KZN’s people in allowing our public health system time to prepare for the inevitable surge.
As part of its mandate of oversight of these facilities, the DA has a duty to assess whether the province’s Department of Health (DoH), under MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, used the first 100 days of lockdown to effectively prepare. While we have seen the roll-out of world class new infrastructure at Clairwood Hospital along with the fast-tracked opening of Dr Pixley ka Seme Hospital, both in Durban, we have regrettably seen a very different picture in the province’s more rural districts. These include:
• Photos of patients forced to sleep on floors at Madadeni Hospital in Newcastle due to a lack of beds and;
• Reports of a 74-year-old woman with breathing difficulty, who was turned away from Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg due to the facility allegedly not being ready and amid fears that staff may be infected by her.
Then there is the issue of an increasing number of infected health workers within the province, with Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALH) reporting 136 infected staff, resulting in last week’s protests outside the hospital.
While the DA does not support illegal strikes, we understand that the action comes after numerous failed consultation processes with hospital management. Added to this is the report on the St Augustine’s Hospital Cluster Outbreak, which provided numerous recommendations regarding improving hospital protocols across all hospitals in KZN, both public and private. To date, the DA has not received any feedback as to whether they have been implemented in public facilities.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, 7 July, the KZN Legislature Health Portfolio Committee will be meeting on-line at 10am. The DA has previously succeeded in ensuring that Covid-19 feedback is a standing item on all of the committee’s agendas. As a member of the HPC, I will be raising all of these issues with KZN Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu.
We all knew this surge was coming. Certainly, the MEC and her Department knew it was coming and they must now account for preparations made along with the current situations at our health facilities. The DA will continue to work hard to ensure that there are no preventable deaths in our province.