A Durban family wants officials in the Health Department held accountable after a debacle that led to the husband returning to work, even though he had tested positive for Covid-19.
The man went back to work on April 28 and was in contact with colleagues and a few members of the public, not knowing that he had tested positive nearly three weeks before, and no one had told him.
The family’s identity is being withheld to avoid stigmatization. According to the man, his wife, a nurse at a private hospital, had tested positive first and was in self-isolation. Health Department officials had come to their home to test the rest of the family and to ensure that the wife, who had cared for a COVID-19-positive patient, did not spread the virus.
“My family was tested on April 10, by the National Health Department, here at our house. We were told we would get the results in 72 hours, and if we didn’t get any contact from them, we were deemed negative. They also said they would come back on the 24th of the same month to do follow-up tests. We waited for April 13 to get the results but they never contacted us. We waited the rest of the month for them to come back and test us again, but that never happened,” he said.
Due to the silence from the department, they assumed that the rest of the family was negative, and, on April 28, when his leave came to an end, he returned to his logistics job. “On the day I went back to work, my bosses requested a written document by a health-care worker to confirm I was clear. I went to a hospital to get the document but they told me there was a procedure to follow. Eventually, I got my results but they were dated April 11 and they were positive. My 14-year-old son and I tested positive, but my 6-year-old daughter tested negative, and no one had notified us,” he said.
The angry man said he was in contact with members of the public and colleagues, even though he wore a mask all the time.
“The department must hold someone accountable for this mess,” he said.
The woman said the experience had been traumatic for the family.
“Our daughter stays in her room alone. While we wait for the most recent results, we have isolated her. It is painful that three of us can be there for each other and she has to be alone.”
The family was tested again on Tuesday and the results are still pending.
Responding to our questions, sent at 2 pm, KZN Health Department spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said: “The department is unable to respond to this matter based on fact, due to the limited amount of time given by the newspaper.”
He said the department was concerned by the allegations and had begun an investigation into the matter. Maphisa said the department had established guidelines and protocols to share information timeously with people who had been tested. “Normally, if a test has been conducted, individuals who have been tested are contacted to give them the results.
“However, it is unclear at this stage why the patient was allegedly not contacted when the results were available on April 11, 2020. It must be clarified that Addington Hospital assisted by accessing the patient’s records online from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases,” he said.
Maphisa said the department was grateful for the “gallant efforts” of health-care workers and all individuals involved in mass screening and testing for Covid-19.
“The department cannot afford to have such an isolated incident threaten to undermine these efforts.”