The Davhana clinic in Vuwani has been operating without running water since November last year.
The Public Service Association (PSA) and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) expressed concern about the health of clinic staff and patients at some of the clinics in the province.
According to DENOSA, 72 clinics in the province are without running water and are experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment. DENOSA said that, especially in light of the COVID-19 threat, a severe shortage of gloves, face masks, hand sanitisers and clean running water existed.
Last week, Limpopo Mirror visited the Makhado Clinic to gain first-hand experience of the conditions awaiting staff and patients. As is standard practice, patients first had to complete a booking form before proceeding to the waiting area. The security guard manning the entrance did not wear protective clothing. No one sprayed disinfectant on the hands of visitors or disinfected the area where the patients were waiting either.
After people had been waiting for a while, a nurse approached, requesting the clinic cards of patients. The nurse did not wear any protective clothing, such as a face mask. In one of the rooms meant for HIV/Aids counselling, a counsellor was wearing gloves and a transparent apron but also had no face mask.
The public toilet was functioning well and running water was available from taps.
The situation at the Makhado Clinic seems to be better than at many of the other clinics in the region. John Teffo, PSA Limpopo’s provincial manager, said that at Davhana clinic no running water had been available since November last year. This, he said, was compromising the health of employees and patients. Teffo further said that nothing was in place at the clinic as a precautionary measure to prevent people from being infected by the coronavirus.
Speaking to Limpopo Mirror on condition of anonymity, a nurse working at the clinic said: “The situation at this clinic is very bad. A mother who has delivered needs to clean herself and feed the new-born baby, but the taps are dry. As a nurse, I have to fetch water by using a bucket for the mother.”
The nurse said a machine that pumped water to the clinic had broken last year. The municipality delivers water to the hospital for storage in a tank at the clinic. Nurses have to fetch water from the tank, using buckets. Limpopo Mirror was also informed that the toilets for outpatients were not cleaned because of the shortage of water.
Teffo said the nurses had raised the issue with the clinic management several times, but nothing had changed. “Employees must work in conditions that are not conducive to a healthy and safe environment, as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It must be noted that the lack of water creates an opportunity for infection. The patients, particularly new-borns and their mothers, can leave the clinic with diseases due to poor infection control, and this can also create problems for nurses who can be attacked by the communities,” said Teffo.
Kenny Mathivha, spokesperson for the Limpopo Premier, said last week that the procurement of protective equipment was in process.
The Limpopo Department of Health referred all questions to the water authority, the Vhembe District Municipality. Vhembe municipality’s spokesperson did not respond to questions sent via Whatsapp.
Date:27 March 2020 - By: Bernard Chiguvare
Bernard Chiguvare is a Zimbabwean-born journalist. He writes mainly for the online publication, Groundup.