As South Africans digest the news that 572 more people had died after contracting the coronavirus, the Department of Health has revealed most of the challenges currently facing health workers in the Eastern Cape were there even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize returned to the province on Wednesday where he told staff that his department wanted daily reports on the number of COVID-19-related deaths.
“What we are facing are real practical challenges and these are things which we would like you to solve as quickly as possible,” Mkhize said.
“The question of quality of care starts with cleanliness. You have a team that is doing deep cleaning, so we are going to start looking at the waste management sites. We are going to go straight to where it hurts.
“Anyone who walks into a hospital that is dirty gets even sicker than they were before they got in. It’s a simple, basic issue. We need to focus on that. It’s a question of how the hospital is being managed,” he added.
The Eastern Cape reported an additional 400 deaths in the last 24-hour cycle, making it the province with the second-highest mortality rate in the country after the Western Cape.
Mkhize told health workers in the Eastern Cape that they were dealing with problems that existed even before COVID-19 arrived on South African soil, but those problems were getting worse during the pandemic.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) had called for the province to be placed under administration and warned that it was not equipped to handle the current health crisis.
In a strongly-worded four-page letter addressed to DA MP and health spokesperson, Siviwe Gwarube, Mkhize was at pains to explain why he was not giving into the call.
The minister urged the DA to stop what he called “petty politics” and called on the party to rather come up with strategies that could help.
Most of the Eastern Cape’s cases were imported from the Western Cape.
The minister said that at some point the province embarked on a testing campaign at its borders, which was an ideal approach that could have assisted in limiting interprovincial transmission.
However, the country then changed its testing approach on the advice of the ministerial committee to only focus on health care workers, those under investigation, and vulnerable groups.