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Coronavirus Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape premier raises alarm over possible shortage of N95 masks for health workers

Eastern Cape premier raises alarm over possible shortage of N95 masks for health workers
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane. (Photo: GCIS)

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane says the province is having trouble acquiring vital personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

The Eastern Cape is struggling to source N95 masks for its frontline health workers and has asked the national Department of Health to assist, Premier Oscar Mabuyane said on Monday 13 July.

He said they had about one to two weeks’ of stock of other personal protective equipment and were monitoring the situation. 

Mabuyane did not announce any further developments in the construction of field hospitals for the province, which was predicted to reach a peak number of infections by the last week in July. The province has a single field hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay that was funded by the German government and Volkswagen in a joint project with the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

The chairperson of the health committee in the Eastern Cape legislature, Mxolisi Dimaza, said they would meet the Department of Public Works on Wednesday 15 July as they wanted field hospitals to be set up in renovated government buildings, but the Department of Health has put out a tender for tent hospitals and alternative building solutions.

“Stock levels in our hospitals have shown improvement; bulk orders for gloves, gowns, sanitisers, and three-ply masks have been placed. Health institutions have been instructed to place emergency orders with the depots for aprons, gowns, masks and disinfectants. We have a challenge with sourcing N95 masks and examination gloves and we have engaged the National Department of Health in this regard.”

N95 masks are considered as the safest of the face masks for frontline workers as they filter 95% of airborne particles. Doctors working in public hospitals said on Monday that they had been given another type of mask, made in China, that was not working well. 

“We have some N95 masks that were donated and we are saving them for when we need to do high-risk procedures,” one doctor said.

Another added that at Livingstone Hospital, one of three Covid-19 hospitals in the province, the department still hadn’t appointed the promised 100 general assistants, and doctors are now wheeling patients to operating theatres and to the wards while rubbish has been piling up in the hospital passages.

Mabuyane said more than 2,285 health workers in the province had tested positive for Covid-19 and 28 had died.

“Of the infected healthcare workers, 34% are nurses, 2.2% are doctors, and 57% are employed in other categories in the health sector, and the remaining percentage is unspecified.” 

He added that Tuesday 14 July marked the 120th day since the first person in the Eastern Cape had tested positive for coronavirus. 

“The next two months will be critical for our survival,” he said.

He said the province had shown an improved recovery rate and now had recoveries in 66% of cases. 

“We view this development as a significant improvement because the recovery rate has largely ranged between 53% to 57% during Alert Level 3 of the national lockdown.

“As of yesterday, we have 52,058 people infected with the virus in our province, and sadly 709 people have passed away because of Covid-19 related illnesses. Among the departed is Her Majesty Queen Noloyiso Sandile of the AmaRharhabe Kingdom, whom we laid to rest on Sunday under the strict Covid-19 regulations that allow only 50 people to attend funerals. 

Mabuyane announced that the Development Bank of Southern Africa had provided PPE for screening and testing units, assistance with improved testing and diagnostic services of sick patients,120 specialised isolation cubicles with beds and ventilation systems, as well as ventilators. He said rural hospitals would benefit from these services.

“While we were at the funeral of Queen Noloyiso, we heard of the passing of the Speaker of Buffalo City Metro, Mr Alfred Mtsi. There are many other citizens of our province who passed away over the past week and I am highlighting these two incidents to indicate to our people that this virus is deadly, it is here to attack the known and the lesser-known people in our society.”

Mabuyane added that he appreciated the leadership shown by the families of Queen Noloyiso and Mtsi as well as others who are openly naming Covid-19 as the cause of their loved ones’ death. 

“Their action will educate more people to really take this virus seriously. It will also assist in destigmatising the virus as we are a society that stigmatises serious illnesses, thereby forcing many people to suffer in silence.”

Mabuyane said they had now traced 92.7% of the contacts of infected persons – an increase of 11% in one week.

He said the other good news was that the first of 10 ventilators donated by the United States had arrived in the province. Five were installed at Livingstone Hospital and five at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, while another 40 were on their way. Doctors, nurses and clinical associates from the South African National Defence Force were also deployed provincewide on Tuesday.

Mabuyane announced that the Development Bank of Southern Africa had provided PPE for screening and testing units, assistance with improved testing and diagnostic services of sick patients,120 specialised isolation cubicles with beds and ventilation systems, as well as ventilators. He said rural hospitals would benefit from these services.

He said the Solidarity Fund would add R75-million to its earlier allocation to the province. The money would be used to purchase equipment for managing patients who need critical care, oxygen and ventilation. 

“Eight regional hospitals have been assessed for their needs and are prioritised to be provided with critical care equipment.”

Mabuyane added that the provincial government welcomed the stricter measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday. 

“We appreciate the fact that wearing of cloth masks is now mandatory and anyone who is found not wearing it will be fined. We are extremely pleased, in particular, with the return of a suspension of the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol, which we called for a week after it was lifted in June.

“Liquor sales have really put an unwanted strain on our healthcare system and we applaud the decision to suspend it again. This should give the liquor industry stakeholders and government ample time to work together to implement an effective behavioural change campaign on responsible alcohol use and consumption in our country.”

He said inspectors of the Eastern Cape Liquor Board and law enforcement agencies would be out in full force to ensure the ban is effected.

“We urge members of the community to blow the whistle when they see non-compliance with liquor regulations. 

“It is the responsibility of community members to stop the sale of liquor products underground, which we anticipate will happen in the next few weeks with some people even paying three times the normal price of their alcohol beverages.”

Mabuyane said a number of wards in the province had been identified to implement a community-based strategy to fight the outbreak.

“We are now pinning our hopes on the cooperation of our people in these communities for all of us to turn the tide against this virus.” MC/DM


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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