High COVID-19 infections at South African mental institution

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

ONE of South Africa’s largest mental institutions, the Sterkfontein mental hospital has a high number of COVID-19 infections, with 125 staff and 64 patients infected, information from the Gauteng Department of Health has shown.

Gauteng Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo

The statistics were revealed by acting Gauteng Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo in a written reply to questions by the opposition Democratic Alliance in the Gauteng Legislature.

In a response to a question by the DA’s Jack Bloom, Mamabolo revealed that one of the infected staff died. However, Bloom said staff at the hospital had told him that there were two COVID-19 deaths.

Said Bloom: “COVID-19 infections at the hospital affected nearly one in five (17%) of the 720 staff and about 11% of the 560 patients. This is disturbingly high as this hospital only treats mental patients and has a lower risk than other hospitals that treat all other patients.

“There was a protest by 25 staff members about inadequate infection control at the hospital on 19 May, and they were dismissed but reinstated recently after referring the matter to the Bargaining Council for arbitration.”

Bloom said although Mamabolo claimed that sufficient personal protective equipment had been supplied to the hospital, an investigation was needed as to why there was such a high infection rate.

“It seems that the Gauteng Health Department neglected a mental health facility during this pandemic despite the lessons that should have been learned from the Life Esidimeni tragedy,” Bloom said.