Swaziland Nurses' Union Calls for Closure of Major Hospital in Fight Against Coronavirus

Nurses in Swaziland (eSwatini) want a major hospital closed down, the patients discharged, and then it reopened as a scaled-down coronavirus centre.

Healthcare is in disarray across the kingdom and nurses do not have enough personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns.

Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) President Bheki Mamba called for the closure of Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital at Manzini after the first healthcare worker, a 35-year-old nurse, tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

At least 26 healthcare workers at the hospital are in self-isolation.

Nurses and healthcare workers have been calling for better protection against the virus since it emerged last month. The Swazi Government has threatened to charge them with breaking the new National Emergency Regulations if they refuse to work without adequate protection.

Mamba said RFM should close down, discharge all patients and deal with only emergencies. He said the hospital must then test all healthcare workers, fumigate wards and get help from extra professional healthcare workers, before reopening. This would ensure the safety of workers and patients.

In a statement the Communist Party of Swaziland said the situation at RFM was 'totally chaotic'. It said, 'Provision of personal protective equipment has been inadequate and uneven, testing has been infrequent, often replaced by largely ineffectual "risk-assessment", only wards and departments where cases of COVID-19 have been suspected have been fumigated, instead of fumigating the entire hospital.'

It added no emergency strategic programme had been enacted by the hospital management even after several weeks since King Mswati III, the kingdom's absolute monarch, declared a national emergency.

It said, 'No national emergency or disaster coordinating committee exists for spearheading the national response to the pandemic. Instead, decisions apparently come from Mswati, who hasn't been seen in weeks.'

As of 18 April there had been one recorded death from coronavirus and 22 people had tested positive.

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