KZN Health MEC hits out against COVID-19 stigma, following unrest at Untunjambili over patients' hospital admission

23 April 2020

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has called for the eradication of stigma against people who have been diagnosed with COVID – 19.

This follows the burning of tyres outside Untunjambili Hospital, near KwaDukuza, by community members who are angry, following the admission of 10 patients who are COVID – 19 positive at the hospital.

Due to the low bed utilisation and patient head count at Untunjambili Hospital, the Department has decided to use the facility for the quarantining, isolation and treatment of patients who have tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus.

The hospital's 24-hour Gateway Clinic, located within the same premises but accessible through a different gate, is still rendering Primary Health Care (PHC) services to the public.

Patients who require a higher level of care are being referred to Umphumulo Hospital.

MEC Simelane-Zulu says the unrest is uncalled-for, and may be a symptom of a lack of understanding of COVID – 19, which needs to change.

"We are appealing to the community to calm down. This hospital is one of our less busy facilities. It has a bed utilisation rate of 39%, and an Average Patient Length of Stay of 4.6 days. Its patient headcount is 1466, all of which is lower than the overage. As part of curbing the spread of COVID – 19, we as Government have a responsibility to create as much capacity as possible for the quarantining, isolation and treatment of patients.

Bringing patients who are COVID – 19 positive to this hospital does not pose a threat to the community if all clinical guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control are followed by staff, which both staff and management has a responsibility to ensure. After all, these are patients from Ilembe District that certain community members are saying should not be admitted. We cannot allow that.

"We need to get used to the fact that COVID – 19 is here, and it is part of our lives. As society – and not just Government alone - we need to focus on demystifying the virus, and rather use our energy to create awareness on what its symptoms are, as well as what those who display them need to do."

"We therefore appeal to our fellow compatriots to calm down, and desist from protesting because gathering in large groups is in itself illegal, as it constitutes a violation of lockdown regulations."

A meeting between management of the district, facility and local community leadership is currently underway, with the aim of resolving the situation.

Issued on behalf of KZN Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu

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This page last edited on 24 April, 2020

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