South Africa

Legal battle looms as Frere Hospital in EC is shut down – report

A legal battle is looming after health and safety inspectors from the labour department shut down Frere Hospital in East London amid concerns that its measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are inadequate, according to a report in DispatchLive.

The department and province’s health authorities are set to battle it out over whether labour safety provisions trump the hospital’s mandate to provide healthcare and the public’s right to treatment during a pandemic.

On Friday, Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed to DispatchLive it had lodged an urgent court interdict to challenge the notice issued by labour department officials.

The prohibition notice to shut down the hospital was served on Frere Hospital’s acting CEO, James Thomas, on Tuesday by labour inspector Apiwe Maxontana, the report said.

It added the labour department had not backed down amid efforts by the hospital’s management, with the director-general of the labour department, Thobile Lamati, refusing to withdraw the notice for closure.

Lamati said the health and safety of employees were important.

Meetings between the hospital management and unions representing staff and labour officials were also held as staff had concerns about the hospital’s protocols to manage the virus, the publication said.

It added Nehawu regional secretary Zwelakhe Tywala supported the notice to shut the hospital down.

Tywala said workers had embarked on a strike as the health department had instructed the hospital how to deal with Covid-19, but despite a department follow-up, the hospital did nothing to meet the requirements.

News24 previously reported the Eastern Cape planned to spend more than R50 million to upgrade 28 hospitals amid the Covid-19 threat.

Provincial spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said the money would assist in preparing facilities for admission of patients.

The Eastern Cape accounted for about 12% of infections in the country, sitting at 2 459 positive cases as of Friday, News24 reported.

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