Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital, designated as the main centre for coronavirus cases in Matabeleland, Midlands and Masvingo provinces, urgently needs its staff quarters to be renovated to house nurses taking care of patients suffering from the virus.
Response against COVID-19 in the three provinces is hinged on the effectiveness of Thorngrove Hospital, which needs to be revamped including providing accommodation for its health care workers.
The hospital’s Isolation Ward, if opened can admit 30 to 40 patients at a time.
Due to the nature of their job, the health care workers are at risk of contracting the virus.
“This is why it’s so important to renovate our staff quarters so nurses can stay here where they have access to protective equipment,” said City of Bulawayo’s Chief Nursing Officer, Sithokozile Hove in an interview with CITE.
She revealed that currently, the nursing staff at the hospital were knocking off and going back to their homes due to shortage of accommodation at the hospital.
“When nurses do shifts here, they are not exposed but risk occurs when they board commuter omnibuses or go to their homes. But as long as they are here, nurses are protected as they spend the whole day in their scrubs and when they are called to patients, don spacesuits, aprons, gumboots, hats and gloves. As long as they don and doff the personal protective equipment properly, they are not infectious,” Hove said.
The chief nursing officer noted that the threat of exposure was higher in communities, where health workers went there after work.
“The threat is in the community but when here, workers have masks, gown, scrubs, space suits which they put on every time they go to patients. When knocking off, workers have to remove all scrubs, take a shower, wash and put on their home clothes. When they remove those space suits and scrubs, they put on new scrubs,” she explained.
To minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others, Hove said health workers had to be accommodated at the hospital until the virus was thwarted.
“There are a few liveable quarters here but the rest need to be renovated. At any given time and depending on the number of patients, when there is the least number of patients, there must be two nurses, a nurse aide, two sprayers and cleaner. Those are six health workers who must serve the patients always,” said the Chief Nursing Officer.
She admitted at the moment, Thorngrove health care workers were exposed to the pandemic.
“We hope the staff accommodation could be renovated to cater for those on duty. Staff have to rotate every six hours and if those rooms are renovated, staff who are off could go to the rooms and rest before the next shift so they don’t go back to their homes. The renovations are a process that is urgently needed,” Hove said.
Sister in Charge of Thorngrove, Nomazulu Dlodlo added the isolation facility also needed a verandah so it could protect workers at night and during the rainy season.
“Since this is an infectious disease hospital, every routine is done with care. After nurses attend to patients, somebody is waiting to disinfect them. The nurses remove everything they would be putting on including their scrubs and suits. After disinfecting, the nurses put on new scrub suits then go out to the nurses’ station. The challenge is at night, nurses still have to use the same route otherwise they may infect the whole area because we have to make sure they don’t infect the clean area. This is why we need a verandah for staff to walk in at night,” she said.
“The same routine applied to an ambulance that drops off patients through the hospital’s double doors. After dropping of patients, the ambulance goes round to the wash bay at the other end of the building, where the ambulance is disinfected.”
Bulawayo mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni, concurred that staff rooms had to be renovated, as staff could not fail to find accommodation where rooms were lying idle.
City of Bulawayo Assistant Director of Health Services, Dr Khulamuzi Nyathi, noted Thorngrove Hospital, also had plans to set up a Closed-circuit television (CCTV) to monitor patients.
“CCTV can minimise unnecessary interaction with patients. We want to minimise the number of times staff have to interact with patients as they can watch them through CCTV and nurses can attend to them when it’s necessary to give them food or do physical checks,” he said.