While Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has raised concerns about the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases in the Eastern Cape, its largest casualty unit with a dedicated isolation site, Livingstone Hospital, is struggling.
The provincial health department confirmed the unit had been hit by a shortage of sterile gloves, gowns and employees, including doctors, nurses and porters, while its Accident and Emergency Unit had not been cleaned for days.
On Thursday, department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the unit had not been cleaned and it had no sterile gloves and gowns as of Wednesday afternoon.
However, Kupelo denied reports the casualty unit was shut down on Wednesday after doctors complained about its filthy state.
On Wednesday, the Daily Maverick reported some patients were left lying in the casualty unit as there were not enough porters to take them to wards, and the hospital had to temporarily close down its Accident and Emergency Unit.
The Eastern Cape currently has 4,526 Covid-19 cases, 95 deaths and 2,123 recoveries, and looks like it could cement its place as having the second-most cases in the country if the increases continue.
On Wednesday, Mkhize said additional attention was being directed to the province to ensure it could adequately respond to limit the escalation of the infection.
“We note the same pattern that drove up the outbreak in the Western Cape is building up in the Eastern Cape. The two provinces now consist of 78% of all positive cases.”
On Thursday, Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane said one of those who tested positive for the virus was his own special advisor in the office, Zandisile Qupe.
He was the ANC’s provincial election campaign coordinator in the last elections which the party resoundingly won in the province.
Mabuyane said: “I have also tested because I was a significant contact to him, and I have since received my negative results and that ends my quarantine period. This virus is not a death sentence, it can be defeated, and we will defeat it.”
On Thursday, he added to date, the province had conducted 58,880 tests.
“We will ultimately win against the virus. May their souls rest in peace. Every effort is being made to save as many lives as possible during this period and our efforts are yielding positive results.”
Mabuyane said the recoveries were giving all those who tested positive the courage to fight back.
Kupelo said: “The department is in the process of appointing nine doctors for Covid-19 and yes, I can confirm that 100 GA [cleaners] posts are being processed. The process is unfolding and a memorandum in this regard was signed last week.”
He added the department had also appointed 59 nurses on a one-year contract.
Kupelo said the hospital had been without a permanent CEO or a management committee after they were suspended by the superintendent-general of the department, Dr Thobile Mbengashe, in November 2018.