Shortage of gloves hits top city hospital

UNITED Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) is reportedly facing a serious shortage of medical gloves necessary to protect nursing staff from contracting diseases in the discharge of their duties.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

According to sources at UBH, some student nurses allegedly fell ill after being exposed to tuberculosis at the institution after attending to patients without medical gloves.

Southern Eye could not independently verify the number of affected students, but insiders said one of the affected (name supplied) recently finished the three-year general nursing programme.

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UBH supplies its nursing staff with the medical gloves that cost 20 cents each per pair.

The medical gloves were worn by nursing staff during medical examinations and procedures that help prevent cross-contamination between nurses and patients.

They come unpowdered, or powdered with corn-starch to lubricate the gloves, making them easier to put on the hands, according to an online description of the medical gloves.

The online description adds that there were two main types of medical gloves: examination and surgical. Surgical gloves have more precise sizing with a better precision and sensitivity and are made to a higher standard. Examination gloves were available as either sterile or non-sterile, while surgical gloves were generally sterile.

Sources claimed nursing staff at UBH were being urged to ensure they do not waste the medical gloves, for example, wearing them for multi-tasks.

In the past, sources added, nursing staff could, for example, spread a patient’s bed and dispose the gloves, before wearing a new pair for another task and so forth.

“The hospital faces a general shortage of almost all medicines, but what is worrying nursing staff is the lack of surgical gloves,” one nurse claimed.

UBH chief executive officer Nonhlanhla Ndlovu on Thursday could neither confirm nor deny the allegations, saying the institution, like others countrywide, faced numerous challenges.

“There is no shortage of medical gloves. That is not true,” Ndlovu said over the phone. “There is a general shortage of medicines and that is not unique to UBH alone. It’s a national problem.”

According to Ndlovu, despite low government funding, ordinary patients were also to blame for the institution’s problems, as they defaulted on payments after getting treated.

She said UBH was owed about $12 million.

“We continue to encourage people to pay, but because of the economic situation, they are struggling. We are a government institution and we will continue providing treatment without demanding cash up-front,” Ndlovu said.

“Unfortunately though, that tends to compound our financial situation as people do not pay for services rendered. What it means is that we will not have the money to purchase medicines and other necessary equipment for the hospital.”

The health sector has been one of the major casualties of the harsh economic climate, which has resulted in government failing to refurbish hospitals or offer necessary funding to purchase drugs and other equipment.

The situation has been further exacerbated by the flight of experienced health personnel who continue quitting jobs over low pay and poor working conditions to search for better paying jobs in neighbouring countries.

Government is yet to pay doctors and nurses their December 2015 bonuses.

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