A Mail&Guardian check on four of Gauteng‘s biggest state hospitals — Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke, Thelle Magoerane, and Tembisa — found that basic safety protocols are being widely ignored.
Gauteng has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in the country. But, says the M&G report, given the province’s multibillion-rand personal protective equipment (PPE) bill, its hospitals should be better equipped to contain the pandemic. However, many provincial hospitals, which are used by millions of people, simply do not adhere to the safety standards that are essential to minimise and prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the M&G, reporters visited four Gauteng hospitals and observed that the safety standards that are expected of ordinary South Africans and business premises, such as malls, are not being followed. Biohazard and infected material fills corridors and, when sanitising stations were available, most were empty. After spending hours at different hospitals, it was noted that people were allowed to enter and exit without temperature screenings or having their details taken down — and, at some of these hospitals, social distancing was not enforced.
University of KwaZulu-Natal infectious diseases specialist, Dr Richard Lessells is quoted in the M&G as saying that the problem of hospitals not adhering to the COVID-19 safety standards was not unique to Gauteng.
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that you have found these lapses when you have visited healthcare facilities,” he said. “Although the number of COVID-19 admissions continues to decline, there is still quite a high risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in (health) facilities, especially as hospitals open up more of their normal services.”
The report says in response to detailed questions about the state of these hospitals and how not adhering to safety standards flew in the face of their own policies and the fight against the pandemic, Gauteng Health Department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said health facilities were expected to adhere to the safety standards implemented to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.
“All facilities are reminded that patients coming to health facilities should be screened, there should be sanitisers at various points (and) soap in ablution facilities. (Officials should) ensure that patients adhere to physical distancing when coming to access healthcare services,” Kekana said.
She added that acting Gauteng Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo would be looking into health facilities that do not comply.
Full Mail & Guardian report