The Tshwane district hospital believes it is in compliance with the occupational health and safety (OHS) requirements and has adequate availability of quality personal protective equipment (PPE) to service Covid-19 patients.
Acting Gauteng health MEC Jacob Mamabolo has given hospitals till Wednesday, to ‘get their house in order’ and comply with occupational health and safety requirements and the availability of quality PPE.
Mamabolo convened a provincial meeting of OHS practitioners which was also attended by representatives of labour at the weekend.
“Labour relations in the department has already been given a directive to crack the whip on non-compliance to ensure that there is consequence management,” he said.
He had visited 25 facilities across Gauteng in the last two weeks, where he engaged with facility management and labour while also being appraised with the state of PPE availability at those institutions.
“The availability of quality PPE lays the basis for the protection of our healthcare workers. Failure to comply with this requirement has the potential to lead to a high rate of infections among health workers and incapacitate our human resource capacity to protect the residents of Gauteng.”
“I further want to emphasise the importance of having functional OHS committees in our facilities. This is a matter of life and death and must not be treated as a by-the-way issue,” said Mamabolo.
He said given that PPE was a daily consumable, “from now onwards”, institutions were expected to hold daily meetings before resumption of duty to discuss the availability of quality and appropriate PPE for different work environments.
Mamabolo committed to convening weekly OHS and PPE meetings to monitor compliance and address any bottlenecks in the system.
This also comes after the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in Gauteng recently visited Covid-19 hotspots health facilities and checking working conditions.
Denosa Gauteng provincial chairperson Simphiwe Gada said: “We are troubled by the issues we discovered at Tshwane district hospital.”
Gada said during their visit, they found that nurses were being forced to re-use disposable gowns and masks.
“Nurses are asked to wash gowns and masks. This is dangerous and puts their lives at risk and in our view contributes to the rate of infection of health care workers as the quality of the PPE depreciates and will not provide the expected protection.”
He said the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) must investigate the quality of PPE to assist to protect healthcare workers.
Steve Biko academic hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula said: “No (employee) is forced to wear an extended gown but everyone is expected to re-use the special masks.”
Mathebula said the specific fabric type of gowns and type of masks were sterilised and hung in the sun to kill the virus for extended utilisation.
“The sterilisation of specific masks and specific material type gowns is compulsory.”
She said Steve Biko academic and Tshwane district hospitals used amalgamated services and the extended use of PPE had been a policy for the two hospitals.
Mathebula said this was not putting nurses and other individuals live at risk, nor was it also contributing to the rate of infection of health care workers as the quality of the PPE depreciated.
“Contrary to the belief that the PPE lose its integrity if sterilised, this technique of ensuring sustained availability of PPE, as advised by WHO and national department of health has proved to be effective and reliable.”
She said the extended use of PPE was introduced in the complex since April 2020.
“Up to now, none of the healthcare workers contracted the virus while donned in this PPE, and that is proving its effectiveness.”
This article first appeared on Rekord and was republished with permission.