Netcare's Kingsway trauma unit closed after patient tests positive for Covid-19 — more test results awaited

15 April 2020 - 09:10 By TimesLIVE
Netcare's Kingsway Hospital confirmed that one patient had tested positive for Covid-19. The hospital has closed the trauma and radiology units.
Netcare's Kingsway Hospital confirmed that one patient had tested positive for Covid-19. The hospital has closed the trauma and radiology units.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Netcare Kingsway Hospital in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban, stopped admitting new patients on Tuesday after it emerged that a patient has tested positive for Covid-19.

The hospital confirmed on Wednesday that it had adopted “precautionary measures” after positive Covid-19 exposure at the hospital and that they were awaiting the results of tests conducted on staff and patients who may have been exposed to the virus.

A hospital receptionist told TimesLIVE on Wednesday morning that the hospital was on divert.

“Unfortunately, we are not admitting new patients at the moment,” she said.

In a statement, Craig Murphy, KZN Netcare regional director, said the origin of the exposure has been traced to a patient who was admitted to hospital via the emergency department on April 4 with a suspected stroke.

He said the patient was risk assessed and screened for Covid-19 symptoms and exposure, even though he was asymptomatic and there were no travel risks associated with him or his family.

“During his hospitalisation, the patient was visited by his general practitioner on the evening of 7 April who mentioned to the treating specialist that he had recently treated him for flu-like symptom on 1 April. The treating specialist requested a Covid-19 test as a precautionary measure, even though the patient was still asymptomatic. At the same time, the patient was placed in isolation as a person under investigation (PUI). The test results came back on 8 April confirming that the patient had a Covid-19 infection.”

Murphy said the hospital had embarked on an extensive contact tracing programme to identify all medical staff who may have come into contact with the patient.

“Health care and other workers who have been exposed to the patient were asked to home-quarantine and self-monitor. Most of the identified contacts have been tested for Covid-19, the remainder of the exposed persons will be tested in the next few days. All potentially exposed patients have also been tested.

“All of these individuals — those working in the hospital as well as patients — who have undergone Covid-19 laboratory testing are regarded as persons under investigation (PUIs) and have been placed in isolation to contain the possible spread of the virus.”

Murphy said management also decided to close the radiology department and that they had employed the services of two independent infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists to assist in investigating the incident.

He said doctors who practise at the hospital had been asked to cancel consultations or consult telephonically to limit access to the hospital.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu confirmed that the trauma unit had been closed on Tuesday after a patient and staff tested positive.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a staff member at the private facility said members of the department of health were at the hospital on Tuesday.

“The others have been sent to Hillcrest, we are not sure where though, because staff were given a strict instruction not to speak to anyone or admit anything.

“They were on the premises. They tried to speak to staff and management but they couldn't get information from anyone.”

The staff member said they were not happy about the incident at the hospital or by the way it had been communicated to staff.

“We were exposed on Saturday and Sunday but were only told on Thursday to quarantine — and even in that instance, only certain nurses were told. The HR manager would call and inform us as to what was happening.”

Provincial health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said they were “worried” about the situation at the hospital. “We have sent a team of senior departmental officials to investigate what has transpired, as well as establish how the hospital is managing the situation. These latest developments will also form part of the ongoing investigation involving St Augustine's Hospital, which is owned by the same hospital group.”

The department would continue to closely monitor the situation, and expect consequence management if any negligence was found on the part of any individual.

Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) public relations officer Kevin Halama said they were still investigating whether any of their members had been put at risk by the employer.

He said a number of issues were raised with Netcare on Tuesday during a teleconference and Netcare had agreed to provide staff with one mask per day.

“They had previously been providing staff with one mask per week and we were fighting to change that to make it a mask per day,” he said.