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BODY BAGS SHORTAGE HITS REFERRAL HOSPITAL

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SITEKI – The rise in the number of deaths due to COVID-19-related illnesses has resulted in the Lubombo Referral Hospital and Good Shepherd Mission Hospital (GSMH) experiencing a shortage of body bags.

A source confided to this publication that in the past two weeks, most of the bodies were wrapped in sheet-covers and put into plastic materials upon being confirmed dead as the hospital had run out of body bags.

“It is a bad experience as the orderlies and the nursing staff are subjected to this situation. They had no choice after being told by management that there were shortages of body bags and had to use sheets fabric to wrap the bodies of those who had died before making sure that they improvise using the available plastic bags. The whole of last week has been a bad experience to the workers and this has also been the situation at Good Shepherd,” alleged the source.

However, by yesterday, the hospital had received some body bags.

Situation 

“Over the weekend, we found that the management had managed to make some means to rectify the situation, which was a serious threat to our health. They were procured after the complaints from the orderlies and nurses as some of the staff members felt that they were at risk of being exposed to the virus because they had to make sure that the bodies were wrapped in a satisfactory manner that would not expose any body parts. We just hope the bags will be enough to last us for a while before we start wrapping the corpses in plastic bags again,” added the source.

Another source working at the health institution, also confirmed the matter, mentioning that the health workers were being exposed to the virus following the shortage of the body bags at the facility.

“We lost another health worker at the facility due to being exposed to the virus. She died while also admitted to the facility after contracting the virus. It is so discouraging because she complained that the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) was a major issue for health workers. Ideally, we are supposed to wear three protective garments to ensure that we are always protected when attending to patients. The issue of the body bags was discussed during our shift briefings after informing the management about the shortage of stock. It is commendable that the management has since addressed it,” the source said. 

Ministry of Health Director of Services Dr Vusi Magagula, confirmed the shortage of body bags faced by the hospitals.

“Yes it is true, the situation was corrected and some were obtained from other health institutions. And let me put it succinctly clear that there was no worker who was exposed to the virus as all bodies were in body bags as per the procedure after the situation was brought back to normal,” he said.

Confirmed 

GSMH Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Muzi Dlamini, also confirmed that they had experienced shortage of body bags due to unavailability of some sizes from their suppliers.

“For us, the challenge is the shortage of big sizes of the body bags. However, the procurement department is handling the matter with our suppliers. We are fresh from a meeting with the regional police on the matter as they are the first to respond on cases of death and further transport corpses at the scene of crime. They also voiced out their concern on the matter. We are positive that it will be addressed soon,” Dlamini said.

Meawhile, Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said she had not yet been informed about the matter.

“I was talking with the Lubombo Referral management on Saturday and they did not mention that they were running out of stock on the body bags. I guess they are communicating with the procurement (department) if they have exhausted their usual back-up,” she said.

Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) President Bheki Mamba, said government should prioritise the adequate supply of body bags, particularly because they were essential in the protection of health workers against infectious diseases like the prevailing coronavirus.

“The health workers have not yet brought it to the attention of the association the shortage of body bags at the facility. We condemn this because it exposes the health workers to infectious diseases. Government should make sure that there is enough equipment, especially the body bags as the number of death occurrences each passing day was inevitable.  The management should make sure that stock is enough and avoid such a situation in future as it puts the lives of our health workers at risk of contracting the virus,” Mamba said.

Preparedness 

Meanwhile, the Good Shepherd Hospital has intensified its preparedness and readiness for the coronavirus by erecting three tents on the premises as receiving points for patients showing symptoms of the virus. 

The country has been recording a notable increase in infections and deaths since December last year, forcing government to issue stricter COVID-19 measures, resulting in the ban of alcohol sale and distribution.

As of last week, the average daily death rate was at around 16. 

Beside the shortage of body bags, government has been struggling to address the issue of drug shortages countrywide as well as providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. 

The nurses association revealed that close to 10 of their members were infected with the virus each passing day due to government’s inclusion of public hospitals to be treatment centres for the virus.

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