Durban – A Durban home for the frail, elderly and disabled has taken strict measures to keep the coronavirus away from its residents, much to the dismay of some of their health workers.
The Natal Settlers Memorial Homes in Umbilo, Durban, thought it would be safer for their residents if their staff lived in during the lockdown, instead of moving in and out of the premises, because the elderly were far more vulnerable to the virus and its complications.
A memorandum was issued to staff, informing them about the homes’ response to the lockdown.
The staff allege they were not given enough time to decide whether they would live in or take annual leave, in order to be paid.
A staff member, speaking on behalf of a group, said many of them had families and were unable to stay on the premises. They felt the home had had ample time to make them permits so they could go in and out of the premises and also see their families. She said they were told to sign for leave or stay at home if they were unable to live on the premises for the duration of the lockdown.
“From the inside information we received and the roster we saw, they are working 24 hours a day, without rest or days off.”
Natal Settlers Executive Committee member Warwick Chapman said they had to take emergency measures to minimise the risk of infection, as they had hundreds of people on one property.
Chapman said that, at the time of the lockdown, there was no clear procedure for obtaining permits. Therefore, the executive committee voted to proceed into the lockdown with staff moving on to the premises, removing the need for permits.
“These circumstances have placed staff and management under pressure. On top of that, staff who are on paid leave are exceptionally unhappy with the circumstances,” said Chapman.
He said the work routine had been adjusted for a longer rest period and a focus was placed on essential areas of work.
“We have 83 staff on duty during the lockdown. We usually have 112 during normal operations. It is important to note that we always have separate day shift and night shift teams,” he said.
By Thobeka Ngema