Four people, including a nurse, have tested positive for COVID-19 at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo.
This comes after the city also recorded three new cases on Wednesday while national cases jumped from 63 to 132 in a single day.
The nurse, whose name could not be immediately ascertained, reportedly became the first nurse to be infected with the virus in the country.
This caused anxiety within the medical ranks, as other health care workers at the hospital were left in a panic.
Mpilo Hospital Acting Chief Executive Officer and Clinical Director, Dr Solwayo Ngwenya, confirmed the hospital recorded four positive cases on Wednesday.
Of the three patients, two had been admitted at the hospital presenting other cases and were found to be positive after testing for COVID-19.
They were still admitted to the hospital, with nurses reportedly afraid to attend to them, as Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital and Ekusileni Medical Centre are still not ready to take in COVID-19 patients.
The other positive patient, whose source of infection appears to be a local transmission, was sent home for self-isolation.
Dr Ngwenya said returnees, were the “most important vector in transmission,” as the hospital tested people from quarantine centres who probably infected staff.
“A couple of weeks back, Mpilo has had people coming from the nearby quarantine coming for testing as we were also testing staff and patients at the hospital. So we found at least four people tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR diagnostic testing.
“One nurse was sent home (to a western suburb), others are patients who were sick and admitted for other reasons, the other person from the community, probably came to Mpilo as an outpatient for minor illness and is at home to be followed up by City Health Department. This has caused a lot of consternation and fear amongst staff but we have managed to talk to them on the importance of continuing our fight against the COVID -19.”
Dr Ngwenya also warned COVID-19 was now spreading in the communities.
“It appears COVID-19 is spreading quite rapidly in the community by looking at the addresses where the people are coming from and also looking at way how the community has behaved since the relaxation of the lockdown. There has been a lot of disregard for regulations such as social distancing and wearing of masks.”
Dr Ngwenya said the hospital has started contact tracing for everyone who came into contact with the infected people.
“It’s going to be quite a huge task because the contact is spread by quite a number of days, as people were caring for patients infected with the coronavirus. We hope to contain it but the community must follow given instructions otherwise this will spiral out as the virus is
quite contagious,” he said.
He added that since a nurse was infected, protocol demanded they go home, self-quarantine and would be followed up according to the Public Health Act through the City Health Department.
Meanwhile, panic-stricken nurses at the referral hospital staged a walkout of duty after their colleague tested positive.
The nurses congregated at the hospital’s carpark and were later addressed by Principal Nursing Officer, Miriam Mangeya, who pleaded with them not to panic.
“Coming to stand together here doesn’t help us. All of you will undergo Rapid Results Testing and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. After testing we will do contact tracing – look at people who were directly in contact and those who were not. Let’s not panic much this was long overdue, this was reason why were emphasised on need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”
After that incident, Dr Ngwenya said the standard procedure was to conduct contact tracing and those who came in contact with infected should go home and self quarantine for 14 days.
“If they don’t show any symptoms they come back to work. The nurses were supposed to start contact tracing but it appears their congregation was now used for other reasons to cause alarm and fear,” he said.
Enock Dongo, President of Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) confirmed that the local nurse from Mpilo was the country’s first nurse to test positive for COVID-19.
“From our records and also taking account from official updates from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the nurse from Mpilo is the first nurse to be infected,” he said.