Cape Town – A Tygerberg Hospital cleaner, who is self-isolating at home, has accused the facility of endangering their lives, saying they were instructed to use bleach to sanitise the ward where a nurse, who recently died of Covid-19, worked.
The hospital has denied the allegations. Nurse Ntombizakithi Ngidi, originally from KwaZulu-Natal, was the second nurse in the Western Cape to die after testing positive for Covid-19.
Her death followed that of 62-year-old Petronella “Aunty Nellie” Benjamin, who was laid to rest last week. One of the cleaners, who was self-isolating at home, yesterday said both nurses and the cleaning staff were disappointed in the hospital.
“As cleaners, we were told to use Jik bleach and other cleaning products to sanitise the J Ground, which came as a shock, because we thought a company would be outsourced to deep-clean every area she (the nurse) worked and sat in. We believe this was irresponsible because they risked our lives,” she said.
“We were shocked to hear that Ngidi passed away shortly after falling sick. We were concerned because we worked in her ward, and she loved to eat in our kitchen and just chat with us,” she said.
She said cleaners and Ngidi’s colleagues were tested and were currently awaiting their results.
“We have been in self-isolation at home since Friday. We are aware of about seven people who have tested positive so far – this is both nurses and cleaners. We are all hurt by Ngidi’s death. She was very close to us.”
A nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “When nurse Ngidi fell sick and complained of chest pain, we were concerned and some advised her to report to the matron.
“She was apparently told to continue working but must use a mask. She then got tested and her results came back positive. We are not happy with the lack of immediate action. She was a very kind person and always smiling.”
Ngidi’s friend, Phelelani Mkhize, said they were still finding it hard to believe that she had died.
“Everywhere nurses are complaining about the treatment they are getting and that they are contracting the virus at work, so when she told me on May 1 about five of her colleagues testing positive, I was not really shocked.
“She was also tested and was waiting for her results. I tried to call her on Sunday and then on Thursday I was informed by her sister that she passed away.
“I’m really heartbroken because I was praying her results would come back negative. She leaves behind two children,”said Mkhize.
Tygerberg Hospital spokesperson Laticia Pienaar said the ward where Ngidi worked had been decontaminated, followed by the cleaning of the terminal, at the weekend.
“An outside contractor was procured to decontaminate the ward. She fell ill at the hospital, and was tested and sent home to self-isolate. Her results came back while she was in isolation.
“All staff working at J Ground ward have undergone screening and testing, some of whom have been requested to self-isolate. The hospital follows the Western Cape Government Health’s Covid-19 Occupational Health and Safety Policy, which provides occupational health guidance on the management of Covid-19 among health workers.
This entails the procedure to follow to decontaminate an identified area and screen and test relevant staff who were in contact with a confirmed case,” said Pienaar.
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA’s (Denosa) Danver Roman said: “There are health and safety protocols in place. Denosa’s principle is “No PPP, no work”. The policy is not followed properly.
“In some areas it is, in others, not. Our concern, which we raised with executive management, is that policies are being developed with executive management, but not properly implemented, especially on the middle-management level.”
Roman said they would ask the employer to train cleaners properly because health-care facilities needed to be fumigated properly.
By Okuhle Hlati