- There were long lines and no physical distancing outside St Augustine's Hospital in Durban.
- Healthcare workers say they were instructed to go to the facility to be vaccinated.
- The hospital states workers must have an appointment before coming to the facility.
Long lines and no physical distancing was the order of the day on Thursday as healthcare workers waited outside the Netcare St Augustine's Hospital to be vaccinated as part of the Sisonke Study.
Hundreds of health workers gathered outside one of Durban's most popular private hospitals, where the vaccination of essential workers was taking place.
The facility managed to vaccinate thousands this week.
The success has, however, been marred by poor controls.
From early on Thursday morning, a line snaked about half a kilometre long on JB Marks Road.
Speaking to News24 on condition of anonymity, two healthcare workers said they were concerned the gathering outside could be a super-spreader event.
"I am from a healthcare facility in Phoenix. There is so much confusion and lack of organisation."
She said mixed messages were being sent out.
"Some messages say we can just come to the facility, but when we got here, they tell us that we have to be registered to receive the vaccine. It's stressful to realise you came here for nothing and could be leaving with Covid-19."
A male nurse, who works at a TB clinic in Durban, told News24 he was worried for his family after seeing the lines.
"This is very much looking like a super-spreader event. I need to also protect my family and am concerned after coming here."
Netcare managing director for hospitals, Jacques du Plessis, said they "continue to vaccinate only eligible healthcare workers, who have registered to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations and who have been pre-booked for vaccination today and tomorrow".
"While both Netcare St Augustine's and Netcare Milpark Hospitals have been set up to vaccinate a high number of healthcare workers, there are no additional vaccination slots available and we are, therefore, unable to vaccinate any walk-ins.
"We, therefore, strongly urge individuals without appointments not to come to either of these facilities and endanger themselves by arriving en masse," he said.
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He said that, as the Sisonke programme, which focuses on health workers, was coming to an end, there had been an influx of people arriving at their facilities to be vaccinated.
"This has not been helped by the misinformation, which is currently being circulated," added Du Plessis.
He said the St Augustine's Hospital did not have control of the people queueing outside their facility, but that those inside were made to follow Covid-19 health protocols.
Du Plessis said:
At Netcare St Augustine's Hospital, unfortunately, a bottleneck of people queueing outside the facility has resulted, fuelled by these incorrect messages. Inside our premises, at the vaccination facilities. We are maintaining social distancing, with markings on the ground and chairs carefully distanced, but areas outside of our hospital grounds are unfortunately beyond our control.
"The South African Police Service has repeatedly told people, who are gathering outside the premises and who do not have an appointment, to leave, and ordered those queueing to respect social distancing guidelines, but to little avail," Du Plessis said.
Vaccine uptake among workers is commendable
Du Plessis said the vaccination uptake by healthcare workers is "commendable".
"There is no shortage of healthcare workers wishing to be vaccinated at this time, and we are working efficiently and carefully, doing our utmost to ensure the safety of everyone."
He said their primary concern was workers arriving without vouchers.
"To ensure minimum delay, we would like to remind everyone to bring along all the necessary paperwork, including proof of employment and identity document or passport."
He cautioned that the verification and registration process can be time consuming, particularly with so many individuals arriving without vouchers.
"It is, therefore, of vital importance that the process is properly followed. Only those who arrive with the correct documentation will be able to receive a vaccine, as has always been the case.
"We are pleased that we are able to assist the thousands of healthcare workers coming through our vaccination site at this time. However, it is essential that those who arrive are eligible, have registered and have the correct vouchers, in order to receive their vaccines."