South Africa Quarantine Facilities Have No Medical Staff

It has recently come to light that the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) failed to renew its contract with an NGO that supplies medical staff – primarily nurses – at more than 40 privately-run South Africa quarantine facilities in Gauteng. The GDoH was to have assumed responsibility for ensuring that nursing staff be provided to quarantine sites once the contract lapsed on Friday, July 31, 2020, however, to date, this has not materialized at a single site.

Instead, on Friday, all the privately-run quarantine sites in the province received a message from GDoH’s Johan van Coller, stating that “at 16h00 there will be no nurses at the NDoH quarantine sites. The contract with the NGO that was supplying the nurses came to an end. Please raise your concerns with the NDoH (National Department of Health), Mr. Khosa, and Mr. Mahlangu, due to [the fact] that the sites are run through the NDoH not the GDoH.” Van Coller went on to describe that his role was to provide statistics and information to the GDoH and to the NDoH, not to be involved in the procurement of nursing staff.

Since then, no medical personnel have been available at private quarantine sites contracted by the NDoH and the GDoH. The situation has become so worrisome for some facilities that they have resorted to hiring their own medical staff – both nurses and doctors – at a cost of R290,490 (US$16,728) for 4 nurses every 14 days to ensure that appropriate medical care can be provided to citizens in their care.

This coincides with a communique issued by the NDoH on July 22, 2020, that repatriated citizens could apply to self-quarantine prior to their return to South Africa. The Department also extended the option to those repatriated citizens currently in quarantine facilities and who meet the criteria to self-quarantine at home. A form could be downloaded from the website and submitted to the NDoH for evaluation.

The self-quarantine process is currently faced with hundreds of applications awaiting approval. In addition to the backlog, applications are seemingly not being equitably evaluated. Some successful applicants received an email simply signed “Kind Regards, The Quarantine Team.” As this was not on an NDoH or GDoH letterhead, port health authorities were questioning the authenticity of the email and refusing citizens’ self-quarantine options.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling on the National and Gauteng Departments of Health to explain the problems besetting mandatory quarantine for repatriated citizens entering South Africa.