Nurses at a coronavirus quarantine centre in Swaziland (eSwatini) took to the streets to protest the lack of equipment and poor working conditions.
More than 20 nurses at the Mavuso Exhibition and Trade Centre in Manzini which has been turned into a coronavirus (COVID-19) centre picketed and blocked traffic on Monday (18 January 2021). They said they were exhausted with having to treat up to 35 patients at once. Some have reportedly collapsed with tiredness and others are off work sick.
The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) Manzini Regional Chairperson Nhlanhla Mhlanga said the buildings were unsuitable for coronavirus patients and had no windows or other ventilation.
He added ‘Most of our patients are diabetic but there are not enough glucometers here. These things cost less than E400 (US$27) each.’ There is also a shortage of masks and protective equipment for nurses.
In an editorial comment, the Times of eSwatini said, ‘It is evident to us all that our understaffed health workers are overwhelmed and overexposed due to an abnormally high number of COVID-19 infected patients being attended to daily – at times without a consistent supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). As a result, several nurses engaged in a go-slow in some health centres around the country, which affected hundreds of innocent patients.
‘They cannot be faulted for feeling unappreciated when their concerns come secondary to the car allowances and perks paid out to politicians right in the middle of a health crisis. This ill-timed decision has opened floodgates of demands from numerous sectors that feel equally important. People are dying but some are more concerned about their allowances. It’s sickening.’
The Swazi Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi has already appealed to the World Health Organisation to send extra healthcare workers to Swaziland. In a letter she said, ‘The high number of new cases has resulted in health systems that are now overstretched, including a severe shortage of oxygen supply to the people who need it. The second wave is also resulting in more client admissions as a majority of the clients are presenting with symptoms, which rapidly progress to severe and critical illness. Furthermore, the capacity to manage critically ill patients is not adequate in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of patients presenting with severe illness.’
On Monday the Ministry of Health announced a further eight deaths from coronavirus bringing the total to 384. A total 13,187 people have tested positive since the crisis began.
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