Nurses protest in Cape Town. May 12 is a day nurses are supposed to celebrate as the world marks International Nurses’ Day, but some nurses in the Western Cape said there was nothing to be happy about while they risk their lives on the Covid-19 frontline.
More than 100 healthcare workers at Tygerberg Hospital – including nurses, porters, and general workers – disrupted the event of the day, in which provincial health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo was due to address them. Instead, they demonstrated outside the hospital to highlight their plight during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to grieve the death of their colleague, Ntombizakithi Ngidi, who died at the weekend. Despite being at the coalface of the Covid-19 fight, many said they didn’t feel appreciated and Nurses’ Day had become “meaningless to us”. They alleged that despite several staff members testing positive for Covid-19, hospital management has failed to deep-clean wards where staff work, or close the wards and isolate those who had worked with Covid-19 victims.
Some claimed that despite Ngidi reporting ill and with symptoms of the virus, her nursing manager allegedly told her to continue working and to wear a mask. Ngidi, who succumbed to Covid-19 on Friday, is the second nurse to die from Covid-19. Mbombo confirmed on Tuesday that about 200 healthcare workers have tested positive for Covid-19, and half of those are nurses. It is believed 11 of the nurses who have tested positive for Covid-19 are at the Khayelitsha community health center (CHC). In a statement, Tygerberg Hospital said it recognised that its employees may experience fear and anxiety following the recent death of a nurse due to Covid-19.
“During this period, the hospital management would like to unequivocally assure employees that it is committed to ensuring maximum protection for all against the spread of the coronavirus. The safety of our staff is of utmost importance, which is why we have spent a lot of time consulting employees and union representatives about various concerns raised by staff. Senior management has committed to a partnership to engage shop stewards to collectively address these concerns.”