Going without food for hours, re-using bedpans filled with faeces, an overflowing bin and being ignored by nursing staff are just some of the conditions patients in isolation at Settlers Hospital in Makhanda say they have had to endure.
News24 has spoken to a patient, as well as the family member of a second patient, after they were placed in isolation showing signs of Covid-19.
The isolation room is for “patients under investigation” for Covid-19, pending their confirmed test results.
One patient, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised, said it would be better to just go home.
Suffering from asthma, the patient was admitted to hospital on Wednesday after having trouble breathing.
On Thursday, the patient was tested for Covid-19 and taken to an isolation room where four other patients were also waiting for their results.
“The isolation room has been a nightmare. No one wants to come inside to help us. We have to use bedpans to relieve ourselves and those pans are never cleaned. The bin has not been taken since I arrived,” the patient said.
The patient also described how they had to wait for hours for food. On Friday, they had only been served breakfast at 15:00 when they knocked furiously on the door demanding food.
As of Friday, Settlers had recorded five confirmed cases, five more patients under investigation and four deaths, provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said.
Kupelo did not answer further questions on the conditions at Settlers Hospital when asked by News24.
Founder and chairperson of the Unemployed People’s Movement, Ayanda Kota, said this was a common experience for patients at the hospital.
“We don’t have beds for Covid-19 anymore. The deaths are increasing in Makhanda. We buried four people this weekend,” Kota said.
As of Sunday, 387 people have died of Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape.
A family member of another patient who was also admitted in the same ward, sought Kota’s help after learning of the conditions in the isolation room.
In a voice note supplied by Kota, the family member could be heard describing similar conditions as detailed by the anonymous patient. Speaking to News24, the family member said their sibling has now tested positive for Covid-19 and was taken to a quarantine site nearby.
“She has diabetes and she could not survive in those conditions. The treatment she received was horrible. I went there to give her food but they did not allow me. They said it was the law. When she was there, she was not fed for hours. The nurses don’t want to go into that room. She was waiting for the results, but already they were treating her like she had the virus. Even if she had the virus, this is not the kind of treatment anyone deserves,” she said.
In May, the SABC reported that nurses at Komga Hospital had allegedly refused to treat a positive patient from King William’s Town sent to their hospital, claiming they were scared.
The department condemned this, saying that it is constitutionally a fundamental right that every South African should have access to healthcare services regardless of their residential area.
Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) provincial secretary Khaya Sodidi said it was common for nurses to fear going into isolation wards because of an alleged lack of personal protective gear.
Speaking to News24, Sodidi said another challenge nurses were facing was the lack of education around Covid-19, saying some nurses did not know what to do.
“Everytime there is a new viral strain there must be a workshop. That has not happened [yet].”
They are busy raising this issue with the provincial government.
He added that as of Monday the union had recorded 800 infections of their members.
“We suspect that even that number is not accurate. We suspect that there are more.”