ONE of the Eastern Cape rural hospitals, St Barnabas Hospital at Ntlaza Village in Libode, received a protective gear boost from Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba ahead of the Covid-19 peak expected from August and September.

The PPE boost came as the health department in the province continues to battle the Covid-19 infection spike.

St Barnabas is the first hospital to admit Covid-19 patients in the OR Tambo region and has so far recorded 27 coronavirus-related deaths, according to hospital CEO Nombulelo Nobanda.

Two months ago, St Barnabas health workers took to the streets complaining about what they were calling a shortage of PPE.

On Friday, MEC Gomba applauded the hospital staff for their determination to rescue Covid-19 patients.

In April, one of the doctors at the hospital had to drive a patient by himself to Mthatha General Hospital after ambulance workers refused to treat coronavirus patients.

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Dr Vusumzi Mehlo who is a cleanical manager at St Barnabas hospital, MEC Sindiswa Gomba and hospital CEO Nombulelo Nobanda during handing over PPE's at St Barnabas hospital.Photo by Hoseya Jubase

Gomba said the doctor was a hero and that the PPE donations were part of motivating the health workers to continue doing a great job.

The MEC once again warned of a possible peak this month and next month, and alerted people to be conscious.

“One of the reasons going around OR Tambo region is that as department of health in the Eastern Cape, we want to take stock of hospital bed occupation so that when we reach the peak period that we are looking at going to September, we’re able to know whether we are still going to build more or we must get to a point where we can say the beds we have are enough,” said Gomba.

She said for now, hospitals in the province had enough beds for Covid-19 patients.

She denied claims made by some media outlets that the province will need to send Covid-19 patients to neighbouring provinces such as KZN, Western Cape and Free State.

“It’s not true that we are planning to take patients to other provinces. You must recall that people in the eastern part of the province do have homes in different places, and they choose to go outside the border when they want facilities. Those issues are normal issues.

"There is no arrangement for that. The intention of that was taken out of context. It doesn’t mean the Eastern Cape and its facilities are overwhelmed, but people close to borders choose to travel less the one kilometre to get help than travelling a long distance.

"It’s an issue we appreciated, but not an issue made specifically by government. It is made by people’s choices and how far they are to facilities,” said Gomba.

Nobanda said the PPE donation from the office of the MEC will play a big role to the workers in their effort to help Covid-19 patients.