By Kwanele Sibiya | 2021-05-10
Manzini RALEIGH Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital lost a combined total of 86 doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year.
This was revealed by Mbuso Sihlongonyane, a doctor at RFM during a tour of the hospital last Tuesday, where officials from the Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF) were visiting the female medical ward, where 30 bedside lockers worth E126 000 were donated by the Fund.
According to Dr. Sihlongonyane the hospital lost 14 doctors, 60 nurses, 10 paramedics and two support staff during the period.
This made the hospital one of the hardest hit institutions in the country by COVID-19.
This accounts for 12.8 per cent of the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in the country. As if that was not enough, over 200 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 within the health institution.
Dr. Sihlongonyane revealed this information when responding to a question posed by PSPF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Langalakhe Dlamini, wherein the CEO probed Sihlongonyane that from the nurses and doctor’s side of things, the hospital never any fatalities due to COVID-19.
In response, Dr. Sihlongonyane said it was unfortunate that they had a lot of staff members who succumbed to COVID-19 related illnesses within the hospital since the outbreak of the virus.
He said if his memory served him correctly, they had 14 doctors, 60 nurses, 10 paramedics and two support staff members who succumbed to COVID-19 related illnesses. He pointed out that as a therapy measure, they were having a formal group briefing exercise for staff members at the hospital, especially for the team that has been working from day one to date.
This, he said, was so significant because the nurses never rotated as they had been deployed at COVID-19 wards since the outbreak of the virus.
“We are trying to raise funds to send them to a retreat for a day or two just to boost them psychologically, as well as for team building purposes, such exercise would be very helpful given the fact that what they had to go through was quite stressful,” Dr. Sihlongonyane said.
He said they had a lot of deaths due to COVID-19 in the hospital in terms of patients. He pointed out that when COVID-19 was at its highest peak, they had over 60 patients suffering from COVID-19 related sicknesses per ward and five people would die per day in each ward.
He said for the young nurses, this was quite a traumatic experience.
He said for some of the nurses, it was their first time to work as healthcare workers since they were fresh from college, and upon being hired, the first impression they got regarding a hospital set up was that people were dying like flies.
Dlamini then asked ideally about the right way to honour the frontline workers since they really appreciated these national heroes as a fund.
He wanted to know how PSPF could come in as a fund to honour them (frontline workers) for example by offering them a token of appreciation for their efforts.
In response, RFM CEO Benjamin Simelane said they had actually thought about that as a hospital, which was basically offering incentives to their staff members but it appeared that the team building exercise will go a long way in ensuring that the staff members were well motivated and they ended preferring to embark on it instead.
“We have actually negotiated with some leisure service providers in the country such as Simunye Country Club and they were more than willing to cut the costs to the borne,” he said.
In addition, a Matron at the Hospital, Siphiwe Sithole said currently they have infrastructural challenges to house other patients who have been displaced by COVID-19.
She said due to the predicament they would normally transfer COVID-19 patients to other hospitals when they had more patients than they could accommodate.
She also admitted that currently, they were having staffing challenges given the fact that COVID-19 came at a time where they when not prepared for it.
Sithole said as such, they were propelled by the situation to take post/support staff members from other departments and deploy them in COVID-19 wards to make up for the shortage that was brought about by the sudden upsurge of the COVID-19 cases.
In an exclusive interview with this publication, the RFM Chief Executive Officer, Simelane confirmed that indeed they were having a dire shortage of staff members to COVID-19 related illnesse.
When asked about the exact number of staff shortages, he said it was unfortunate that he did not remember the figures as such, he said would have to consult his human resource manager to obtain the exact figures.
When asked if they had replaced the staff members who succumbed to COVID-19 related illnesses, Simelane said the staff had not been replaced as yet.
This he said was because internal processes were still ongoing. Simelane was also asked if the hospital had come up with strategies to counteract the outbreak of the much talked about third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and by so doing reduce the number of COVID-19 fatalities within the institution and he responded to the affirmative.
According to Simelane, they have already arrayed some counteractive measures within the health facility meant to curb the fatalities in the event there was an outbreak of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, he said he was not in a position to divulge them.
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