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WATCH | Eastern Cape 'in crosshairs': patients abandoned, pupil fooling around in ward

30 June 2020 - 11:22 By Naledi Shange
A pupil from Makaula Senior Secondary School who is among 204 who tested positive for Covid-19 was filmed behaving badly in an isolation ward.
A pupil from Makaula Senior Secondary School who is among 204 who tested positive for Covid-19 was filmed behaving badly in an isolation ward.
Image: Screengrab

Nurses abandoning pregnant patients, a quarantined pupil fooling around and Covid-19 testing kits found dumped on the freeway: the Eastern Cape health department is in the crosshairs.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday took to his Twitter account to announce that the ministry had deployed officials to the Eastern Cape to help the department.

“We are sending reinforcements to the province and keep going there to inspect the progress, we are seeing changes and are monitoring the situations,” he said.

In one incident, a video showing a pupil beating the isolation blues by riding up and down a hospital ward on a trolley left the provincial health department up in arms.

The pupil was part of a group of 204 pupils from the Makaula Senior Secondary School in KwaBhaca who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement, department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the pupil looked well enough to tend to his school work.

“While we have noted the learner is energetic and in high spirits, meaning he will easily beat Covid-19, the video is condemned in the strongest words possible,” Kupelo said. “We regard his actions as a sign of ill-discipline and boredom. The learner should rather use the 14 days in isolation to revise what he has learnt in school this year.

“Being in quarantine or isolation does not mean people are on holiday,” he said.

MEDIA STATEMENT TO: NEWS EDITORS/ JOURNALISTS DATE: 28 JUNE 2020 A video of a learner in isolation at Makaula Senior...

Posted by Eastern Cape Department of Health on Monday, 29 June 2020

The video, which was edited to have an upbeat house track in the background, showed other pupils lying on their hospital beds, dressed in their blue hospital gowns.

This energetic patient, however, is seemingly receiving no attention from his ward mates. He is seen with his mask lowered as he slides down the empty passage, braking just before he hits the basins on either side.

Meanwhile, the department has also had to deal with nurses who abandoned their posts at the Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth and at the Frere Hospital in East London.

It is believed that among other things, the nurses were unhappy about being understaffed.

“No matter the grievances, abandoning patients can never be condoned. This placed expecting mothers and their unborn babies in grave danger,” said Kupelo. “One doctor at the respective wards at the two hospitals were left having to play God as they were left on their own.

“While their grievances are being addressed, including deploying more staff to ease the pressure on them, abandoning patients is unacceptable as health professionals have taken oaths,” Kupelo added.

The provincial health department said it would consult the national department on these grievances.

Meanwhile, the province, which has the third-most confirmed cases in the country, found itself in a predicament when hundreds of Covid-19 testing kits were found dumped on the N2 freeway.

The trashed tests were reportedly found by a jogger. The samples were reportedly due for testing. They had come from the Port Elizabeth area and were bound for East London.

On this, Mkhize said: “The tests lying on the road was disappointing ... It seems to be the courier company so we’ve asked for these services to be suspended. We cannot have this type of negligence. We are grateful to those who spotted and reported this matter.”

Taking to her Facebook page, Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba said this was not her department's fault.

“I can't blame people for thinking that the department of health is responsible for Covid-19 test kits because it is a health issue and the department is the champion of the fight against the virus,” Gomba said. “However, it is important to note that tests, test kits and results are the competency of the National Health Laboratory Services. They have responded to this matter and promised to update everyone on their investigations.

“We might not be perfect, but we are as concerned as everyone else when such matters occur,” she said.