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NURSES PICKET, COVID-19 PATIENTS ABANDONED

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MANZINI – “We are not essential workers but slaves!”

This was a bold statement by nurses stationed at the Mavuso Quarantine Centre as they engaged in a picket yesterday. COVID-19 patients were left unattended from 9am as the nurses were picketing  outside the pavilions. This posed a risk, especially to critically-ill patients, who desperately needed to be attended to by medical staff.  The nurses raised a concern about the lack of proper ventilation at the quarantine centre as they claimed that inadequate fresh air was one of the main causes of the high number of health workers who contracted the virus.

The picketing nurses disclosed that the pavilions which were repurposed into healthcare centres did not have a single window to allow adequate air circulation. This, they said, was not ideal as each pavilion accommodated 22 COVID-19 patients, excluding nurses. At the centre, there are only five pavilions which are reserved for COVID-19 positive patients and another which is used strictly for administrative purposes.  

The nurses, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that when they were informed of the decision to be stationed at the centre, it was stated that they would only attend to asymptomatic patients for isolation purposes. “We were also promised that we would be provided with enough support staff to assist us while executing our duties in a diligent and effective manner, to be able to cater for all patients,” disclosed one nurse.

Also, the nurses claimed that they were promised IPC infection prevention control, which includes adequate ventilation for the patients which they said was not a problem at the time. They stated that the centre only had 40 nurses attending to patients and that for their duties to be done in accordance with the demand during the second wave of the pandemic, there was supposed to be three working per shift, which includes staff nurses and an assistant.  However, this is not the case as they disclosed that at times there was only one nurse per shift; something which added a lot of anxiety and stress to the frontline workers.

Another nurse *Njabulo, stated that there were three shifts in a day, which meant that nine nurses would work on a 24-hour basis per pavilion.

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