THE Gauteng Department of Health was never prepared and could never be prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Indaba Young Nurses Union.
New Covid-19 infections continue to skyrocket, with 24,000 new infections reported in Gauteng last week.
Weekly statistics from the Gauteng Health Department show that the province has more than 30,000 active cases, representing more than 40% of all active cases in South Africa.
The National Institute of Communicable Diseases also confirmed Thursday that the country is now officially in the third wave.
Rich Sicina, general secretary of the Indaba young nurses union, who works as a nurse at a hospital in Vosloorus, said it was impossible for the public health sector to prepare for the pandemic because there were staff shortages .
“The Ministry of Health was lacking in our people even before Covid-19, the public health sector has never been ready for a pandemic and it never will be,” he said.
Sicina said Gauteng’s population was growing rapidly, while the government was not doing enough to build new hospitals to serve communities, or build new wards in existing hospitals.
“Our hospitals are overwhelmed, the public health sector is overwhelmed, the situation is abnormal and cannot be resolved overnight.
“We have to build new hospitals or add four or five departments to existing hospitals, but that’s not happening.
“It is not because we have Covid-19 admissions that admissions for other diseases have stopped, these people still need to be admitted, and I tell you, when you go to the areas of ’emergencies such as the injured, you can’t find any social distancing and other people are dying while waiting for beds because the wards are full, ”he said.
“We are stretched, we end up using the emergency services to provide medical care. So we have a case where we end up using them as intake areas because the room is full and there is nothing you can do, ”he said.
Sicina said healthcare workers were under pressure and were doing their best in the situation, but said workers felt neglected due to lack of PPE and adequate resources.
“During the first and second waves, we went so far as to create beds on the floor when the departments are full because there is nothing to do, the patient must be admitted, but the department is full. You can’t send them back to you, so we use sponges as floor beds because there is nothing we can do.
“In the intensive care unit, a nurse is supposed to supervise a patient, but she ends up supervising more people because there are personnel issues, this is the situation nurses face every day” , did he declare.
Sicina added that as Gauteng entered Wave 3, admissions appeared to be on the rise and “got out of hand.”
He said each bed had oxygen and they used oxygen cylinders to help patients who were on beds on the floor but had to share.
He said the situation was abnormal as the oxygen cylinders were meant to be used only for emergency situations.
“It’s hard on the ground, there is a big shortage of material PPE, but we always improvise. What can we do? ”He said.
“I get angry when I see a politician articulating lies about PPE while in the field we knock on the doors of CEOs of hospitals for PPE. We had to occupy the administration block and remove tools requiring PPE.
“I had to breastfeed an HIV-positive person for four days without PPE. Some of our colleagues are dead, they say I’m scared, there is a nurse who is not here with us today, she served a patient without PPE, this nurse is no longer today ” , did he declare.
“To be a nurse in South Africa, you need more than a vocation, you need patriotism and commitment, otherwise you will crack and take your anger out on the patients,” he added.
Sicina said the government must step up its mass vaccination program if it is to achieve herd immunity.
In the meantime, questions have been sent to the Gauteng health department to respond to the union’s claims.
But in Gauteng Health’s weekly Covid-19 update, data showed there were more than 3,500 people admitted to hospitals due to Covid – of which 1,085 were in intensive care.
He said 550 patients were on oxygen, while 398 were on ventilators – both in general wards and in intensive care.
In a statement released Thursday, Gauteng Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana expressed concern about the growing number of Covid-19 infections in the province.
“The Gauteng Department of Health is concerned about the alarming increase in Covid infections.
“Non-pharmaceutical measures remain the best way to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“The department urges all people in the province to do their part to protect themselves and help contain the transmission of the virus, respecting preventive measures – physical distancing of more than 1.5 meters, wearing of masks and hand hygiene, avoid public spaces and gatherings, and seek care early if you develop symptoms.
“The province continues to monitor compliance with Covid measures in communities, schools and other public spaces. The province is also stepping up its contact tracing efforts, especially in sensitive areas, ”Kekana said.