Coronavirus: Mpumalanga health department contradicts premier

While Mpumalanga premier has undertaken to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers at all hospitals in the province, health department officials have put their foot down, vowing that they will not do so.

At a media conference held at Mbombela on Tuesday afternoon, Mpumalanga premier, Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane said that national government has allocated money to the province to purchase PPE. She said that all hospitals would benefit from the grant.

“We are aware of (the) doctors who were not happy to continue working because of they are scared of this Covid. They want PPEs, we want to indicate that we’ve saved about R33 million for the procurement of PPE across all our hospitals, which will be provided. It’s money which we got in the form of a grant from national. We can confirm that we received that money yesterday and accordingly it will be spent for what it is intended for,” said Mtshweni-Tsipane.

The province’s health department officials, however, are adamant that they will not provide PPEs to Middelburg hospital.

“The suits were only provided to hospitals that are admitting COVID-19 patients which is ROB Ferreira, and Middelburg is not admitting patients, it is just screening and testing only,” said health department spokesperson, Dumisani Malamule.

Healthcare workers at the hospital have been refusing to attend to patients suspected of having the Coronavirus because they do not have the appropriate PPE. They have been requesting the department to supply them with haemorragic suits for sometime.

On Tuesday morning, the health department officials met with healthcare workers at the hospital but they made it clear that they would not provide PPEs that the workers demanded.

One of the disillusioned healthcare worker who attended the meeting said he felt pity for the officials who were sent by the department because they lacked understanding of the medical practice.

“I sympathise with them because they don’t understand that in order to test suspected patients we have to collect swab specimen from the patients who have to spend at least more than 48 hours in our care while we are waiting for the results from Charlotte Maxeke hospital. Where is the logic that a doctor who collects swab specimen from an infected patient at Middelburg hospital is at a lesser risk of contracting the Coronavirus from a doctor at Rob Ferreira hospital who is admitting patients?” said a health worker from the Middelburg hospital who attended the meeting.

The attitude of the officials has offended the doctors at the hospital to the point that they are considering seeking the intervention of the national minister of health.

“We were addressed by corporate service managers who don’t even know or can’t even explain what Coronavirus is. Our profession which we passionately love is led by promotional clerks who are pushed to pursue political agendas, to lead this fraternity of health. It would be better if we were dealing with a medical doctor, such as the minister of health, Zweli Mkhize,” said one of the doctors from the hospital.

Another healthcare worker said that officials claimed that they would only buy haemorragic suits only when the World Health Organisation releases a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) which declared Coronavirus as an airborne disease.

During the media conference, premier Mtshweni-Tsipane, said that the MEC and the head of department, who is a medical doctor, have been meeting with the doctors at Middelburg hospital to brief them on the progress made in procuring the PPEs.

“Those PPEs will be provided, the HOD, MEC have had sessions and interactions with those staff personnel where they were in discussions to inform them as to how far are we,” she said.

Mtshweni-Tsipane, however, was unaware that while Health MEC, Sasekani Manzini, has been to Middelburg twice in one week, on both occasions she failed to visit the hospital despite being aware of the healthcare workers’ grievances.

Last Wednesday, she erected a makeshift screening station at the Middelburg Toll Plaza where scores of motorists and passengers were stopped for screening for the Coronavirus, while workers were expecting to meet with her at the hospital.

On Monday Manzini was pictured being vaccinated for flu during the launch of the health department’s Flu Vaccination Campaign at HA Grove Hospital at Emakhazeni municipality on Monday.

She posted these and other pictures of her visit to the department’s Pharmaceutical depot in Middelburg on the department’s Facebook page.

“The MEC for Health in Mpumalanga: Ms Sasekani Manzini after Launching the Flu Vaccine Programme for Healthcare Workers in HA Grove Hospital earlier today.”

“She then proceeded to visit Pharmaceutical Depot in Middleburg to assess the availability of Personal Protective Equipment and Medication needed to respond to any demand pose to the health care service in various facilities and reduce and contain the spread of Coronavirus,” read the post on the department’s official Facebook page.

While the post didn’t mention whether she did find any PPEs for diseases such as the Coronavirus, Manzini is seen posing for pictures next to big brown boxes, presumably with PPEs, but none of the boxes were opened to show the contents.

Healthcare workers, tried to get an audience with her, for the second time in less than a week, but were unsuccessful, said a worker at the Middelburg hospital.

Instead, she sent her personal assistant (PA) to address the doctors.

“She sent someone who has no clue about health matters to deal with issues affecting medical practitioners,” said one of the medical care workers who attended the meeting.

Manzini’s spokesperson also made it clear that the there was no need for the health MEC to meet with the doctors.

“MEC was visiting the (pharmaceutical) depot in Middelburg and had no reason to visit Middelburg hospital because there are no challenges there,” said Malamule in response to a media enquiry on Tuesday.

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