FOUR people in Bulawayo including a nurse at Mpilo Central Hospital and a patient who went to the health institution for treatment have tested positive for Covid-19.
The nurse from Cowdray Park suburb was on Wednesday sent home to self-isolate while the three others are admitted to the hospital. The three were patients and one of them is a resident of Pumula suburb who went to Mpilo with flu and after testing the results were Covid-19 positive. That patient is admitted to the hospital as well.
Health workers at the public institution are being tested to determine if any of them had been in close contact with those infected.
Mpilo acting chief executive officer Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said the nurse is not showing any symptoms and members of the Bulawayo Rapid Response team will make follow ups.
“At least four people tested positive for Covid-19 by PCR testing which is diagnostic and this caused a lot of fear amongst staff. However, we have managed to talk to health workers and emphasise the importance of our continued commitment in the fight against coronavirus,” he said.
“At the moment there is one health worker that has been sent home and others are patients who had come to the hospital. One person had come in from the community and they had come for a minor illness and ended up testing positive.”
Dr Ngwenya said there is a possibility that three people admitted to Mpilo may spread the virus as ideally, they are supposed to be in an isolation centre.
He said in terms of the Public Health Act, anyone with a contagious disease should not come into contact with the public in health institutions.
Dr Ngwenya said the hospital was in need of more personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure no health workers are infected.
“The challenge we have is since both our isolation centres Ekusileni and Thorngrove are under rehabilitation, we cannot separate the infected from members of the public. This means now we have to create a small section within the hospital as the hospitals are not ready to take any patients and this a recipe for disaster,” he added.
Dr Ngwenya said the behaviour of some members of the public could result in the number of Covid-19 cases spiking.
“What is appearing is that the virus is spreading rapidly in the community especially when one looks at the addresses of infected,” he said.
“People have been so careless of late which is dangerous considering their behaviour since the relaxation of the lockdown. There is quite a lot of disregard of lockdown regulations for example social distancing and wearing of masks and we are guaranteed of many new cases which will come as a result of this.”
Tracing everyone who had been in touch with the nurse and the three infected people will be a difficult task, according to Dr Ngwenya.
“We are doing all we can to trace how many more were in contact with the infected but it will be difficult to find all of them as one positive case may represent more than 10 infections which are yet to be discovered,” he added.
“Those nurses will be asked to go home and self-quarantine for at least 14 days and they can have monitoring and testing done while they are at home.”
During Wednesday’s post-Cabinet briefing, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Cde Monica Mutsvangwa announced that Covid-19 cases had reached 132 countrywide.
According to the daily Ministry of Health and Child Care tally also issued Wednesday, Bulawayo had three new cases, bringing the total to 15 on that day.
Bulawayo provincial medical director Dr Welcome Mlilo said there is a probability that the 132 cases recorded nationally include three of the four Mpilo cases.
“We may see the fourth case appearing in statements that are yet to come from the Ministry. I am sure that when they collated the results, the fourth case had not yet been reported,” said Dr Mlilo.
Dr Ngwenya dismissed claims that nurses at the hospital had walked away leaving patients stranded in protest after their colleague tested Covid-19 positive.
He said nurses will undergo counselling and will be tested to ascertain if there are more infections as they are frontline workers.
“We are equally scared but that does not mean we will close the hospital as the public need our services. We will continue asking for more PPE donations to ensure that our nurses and other health workers are kept safe as they deliver their duties,” said Dr Ngwenya.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 1 000 nurses have been infected by Covid-19 in Africa alone.
The International Council of Nurses also approximates that over 100 nurses have died due to the virus worldwide.