Aunty Nellie: the WC's first health worker to die of COVID-19
The Western Cape is struggling with the pandemic, and healthcare workers in the province are at the forefront of this problem.
CAPE TOWN – “After her death, a lot of people contacted us and told us they actually came to her not just for treatment, because my mom used to work in town at the family planning clinic, but my mom always used to pray for the people, motivated them and did counselling.”
That's Marvin Benjamin, son to 62-year-old Petronella - the first Western Cape's healthcare worker to die of coronavirus. She worked at the Cape Town Reproductive Clinic in the Golden Acre.
“Aunty Nellie”, as she was affectionately known, died at the end of April after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Her 36-year-old son said many of her patients saw her as more than just a nurse they approached for healthcare advice. And her friends and family to remember her as supportive, caring, and loveable.
In March, Benjamin fell ill with bronchitis and a heavy bout of flu. A COVID-19 test then came back negative, and following two weeks of rest, she was back at work.
“We told her not to go to work but to rather stay at home because she was almost close to retirement. She told us she wanted to say goodbye to her clients and to her colleagues... and that her work was not finished. That is what she told us, that she needs to complete her career the right way,” Marvin said.
It was during this time that Benjamin contracted COVID-19 and passed away, one day before her retirement on 29 April.
FIRST, BUT SADLY NOT LAST IN WESTERN CAPE
Tygerberg Hospital is one of the frontline institutions in the fight against COVID-19, and at the forefront of the strategy to treat the virus in its epicentre, the Western Cape. But unions are worried about the safety of healthcare workers at Tygerberg Hospital.
As of Tuesday, 296 Tygerberg Hospital staff had tested positive for COVID-19. One-hundred and forty-four staff members recovered from the virus, but unions were very worried about the figures and continue to raise red flags.
Recently, the hospital confirmed the death of one more staffer who died of COVID-19, bringing the total number of that hospital's workers who died of COVID-19 to four.
Monwabisi Selani worked as a porter at Tygerberg Hospital. He died at Khayelitsha Hospital a week ago.
The Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) conducted a preliminary inspection at Tygerberg Hospital this week.
“While going there, we weren’t screened, there were no proper protocols in place, and there are even concerns about access control,” said Gerald Lotriet, Hospersa’s provincial chairperson.
Lotriet said the hospital needed to be closed altogether to avoid a catastrophe.
“The facility needs to be shut down until the correct protocols in terms of occupational health and safety, and all of the immediate protocols have been put in place to ensure that our workers return to work in a safe working environment,” Lotriet said.
For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.