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Covid-19: Mpilo student nurses in quandary as isolation centre runs out of space

Parents to some student nurses at Mpilo Nursing School in Bulawayo are worried that students who tested positive for Covid-19 are still at the institution’s hostels after authorities allegedly failed to isolate them at Elangeni Training Centre, amid reports that the isolation facility is fully occupied.

Parents told CITE they were worried their children would be exposed to Covid-19 as they were interacting with those who tested positive in the nursing hostels, dining hall and bathrooms.

“Our children informed us they are mixing with other student nurses who tested positive. The positive student nurses were supposed to be transferred to an isolation centre and they packed their stuff but were not moved. Instead they returned back to the hostels,” said one of the parents.

Meanwhile, sources at Mpilo expressed disappointment over the conduct of student nurses who are said to have refused to be isolated within the hospital and to even follow government guidelines.

The sources said the hospital was informed Elangeni Training Centre was fully occupied and could not take more people.

Elangeni is the designated isolation centre in Bulawayo.

“The first batch of student nurses went to Elangeni but the second batch is the one that did not go due to lack of space. The hospital resolved to provide space for the student nurses who were positive and the idea was to separate them but this was met with resistance.

“Some student nurses refused to leave their rooms, saying they would rather stay in their rooms. A ward C1 was assigned but the students refused to leave their rooms,” sources said.  

The hospital also reportedly discovered that some student nurses who tested positive could have been infected outside the institution.

“Some of the students were on leave and it seems three quarters of the cases are from local transmission as they were never in the wards. Yes, the medical profession is risky but when we test patients, they are clean and nurses are the ones who are bringing it to patients.

“We can’t say the student nurses were infected on the job, as their lessons end at 1pm. The student nurses are given face masks, gloves, sanitisers and are sanitised upon entering the classroom,” sources said.

The sources also noted that the hospital was still in the process of preparing space and had decided to “withdraw lessons for two weeks to deal with the Covid-19 situation, which had flared among the student nurses.”

 “If only parents knew the calibre of their children. Some student nurses are arrogant and spend time out of the nursing hostel despite being told to stay in their rooms. But they move out and go shopping including the ones who tested positive and are supposed to be in isolation. When such information is out in the public domain, it’s as if the school is in the wrong and is neglecting the students,” sources claimed.

Reached for a comment, Mpilo Nursing School Principal Tutor, Charity Nyandoro, referred questions to the hospital’s management and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Mpilo Hospital, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr Solwayo Ngwenya, said Covid-19 related matters were handled by the City’s health department.

“Anything related to Covid-19 is a public health matter,” he said.

Ministry of Health and Child Care Acting Permanent Secretary, Dr Gibson Mhlanga, said these were operational issues which must be dealt with by officials on the ground.

“Not all issues come to the national level. You must talk to the officials on the ground who must tell us in advance so that we prepare responses. I haven’t heard of it and like now I don’t know if it’s true,” he said.

Acting Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo, said he would have to investigate further as to his knowledge, Elangeni was not fully occupied.

“I think the Mpilo was advised to cater for its student nurses’ isolation as United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH) is doing the same. Perhaps this is the direction the City’s Health Department advised but I will look into the matter,” he said.

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