The Nurses Strike Continued & Volunteering

Today was Day 3 of the essential services strike.

To provide the exact details that have been occurring over the last few days, I will summarize what I have re-tweeted off Eye Witness news and my own tweets:
– Thursday morning: Helen Joseph is NOT safe! Threatening to beat up nurses, gates locked, no one going in or out!! Patients dying.
– @samcowen I work there. We can’t get in. They threatened to beat up night staff so the night staff are working now because the day staff have barricaded the gates. People who are not working cannot get into their room at res. The wards are insane.
– @RichardAsprey I don’t think your safety is ever guaranteed. But I  cannot let patients not be nursed????
– @Gnat_J They have apparently broken in through the gates and chucking all the patients out!!!!!!
– @TotallyCooked This is insane – they are taking it too far. To be honest I am scared to go to work tomorrow.
– Just went past Helen. Completely blocked by police and strikers. Can’t see anything. On my way home.
– @TotallyCooked As a nurse I am MORTIFIED. How can we not remain loyal to our patients?! I am very concerned that foremost they are not getting care, and if I did go to work, I would fear for my life.
– EWN: Strike. The protest at the Helen Joseph Hospital is tense as police  clash with striking health workers.
– @shahil I do believe strikes are essential but not at the compromise of other’s lives.
– EWN: Police fire rubber bullets on striking workers.
– adamZA: Nurses were forced out of Baragwanath Hospital ICU by gunpoint! No nurses caring for any of the ICU patients!
– Mandyweiner: A mob has stormed into operating theatres at Tambo Memorial hospital and pulled nursing staff out.
– My friend is inside Helen! Please pray for her to stay safe!
– samcowen: These hospital thugs should be arrested. This is not a wage strike – this is brutal thuggery. There are better, kinder ways of negotiation.
– EWN: Army called in after violent protests at hospital.
– EWN: W. Cape health workers to join strike.
– EWN: Severe intimidation reported at hospitals.
– EWN: ANCYL Gauteng calls for arrest of sadtu head.
– EWN: Gauteng Health MEC calling for public to volunteer at hospitals. (done!! Whose joining me??)
– @bradbrown947 No problem. Just volunteered to work tomorrow. Since I can’t as a nurse, I will do so as a volunteer!
– EWN: Gauteng hospitals a ‘disaster’
– EWN: Zuma talks tough on civil servants’ strike
– @samcowen only 2 volunteers including myself at the Gen.
– 702JohnRobbie: Thank you to the 500 volunteers  who have registered so far to assist at hospitals.
– EWN: Security guards at the Helen Joseph Hospital say they won’t stand up to protesters because they fear being attacked when they go home.
– EWN: Police arrived at HJH shortly after 7am, prior to that there were no cop cars in sight. Why?
– Sitting in the matron’s office waiting to be placed *volunteer *strike. If its all good today maybe I can volunteer tomorrow too!
– A lot of cleaning is required eg in the theater. Esp at JHB Gen. Please.
– @samcowen: Lead SA asked for volunteers and you all responded. Thank you for the sms and calls. Still need cleaning equipment at Helen Joseph
– (After I finished dinner): Back at JHB Gen for more volunteering!!
– Home time guys. Need to start an assignment before I come back to volunteer tomorrow 🙂 looooong night ahead. On the road again…
– Dont worry, definitely gonna blog about it!
– EWN: Health MEC thanks volunteers, calls for help from specialised nurses.
– trying to get the smell of charred flesh out of my nose…
– EWN: Qualified nurses desperately needed  to volunteer at hospitals
– EWN: Cwele sends a strong warning to violent strikers
– samcowen: Helen Joseph URGENTLY need coffee, tea and  bread for the patients
– EWN: Samwu may join strike in solidarity
– EWN: Gauteng government to arrest disorderly strikers
– EWN: Health minister and MEC volunteer at Chris Hani
– EWN: We can’t offer unions more – government
– EWN: Far East Rand volunteers have a fulfilling experience
– EWN: Domino effect of wage increases could cause close down of businesses
– Volunteering at HJH and working it in heels 🙂 I’m a stylish nurse 😀
– Maybe heels was a bad idea 🙂
– EWN: Courts interdict for striking public servants
– EWN: No end in sight for strike
–  EWN: Government will ensure hospitals are functional during strike
– EWN: Cosatu confirms their support for ongoing strike
– EWN: Government, LEAD SA and volunteers join hands to keep hospitals going
– Us special few just spent the last 3 hours cleaning ward 19 in HJH (pic)
– Me and Frosty911 just got interviewed by The Daily Maverick!!
– EWN: Defence force members increase at hospitals
– EWN: Volunteers disallowed from entering George Mukhari Hospital

This is all from yesterday (when the shit hit the fan) until now, Saturday 21/08/10 at 00:27 am.

Because I was told by the varsity not to work at Helen, and because I am not comfortable with how out of hand it is getting, I did register to volunteer and was placed at the JHB Gen. I worked there from 08h00am until 19h00, had dinner at Gina with TheBoyfriend, Cliff and Kara where we had a blast until Aaron vomited for like the 4th time and we made a quick departure *I still can’t handle vomit*, then returned to volunteer and left at 11:30pm….

I started off my day going to the matron and waiting forever to be allocated while running around in the hospital a bit. I requested to work with the babies and was placed in ward 277 (HOW MANY wards are there??? Woahhh!!). The first baby I saw was a preemie in this one cubicle…When I entered, I saw the nurses gathered around one baby. It was a prem baby and had a “bottle” sort of thing hanging above her and seemed to be connected to her. I thought it was a blood transfusion. On a closer look I saw that It was connected to the baby’s abdomen ans was STICKING INTO IT in a hole about 8cm wide!! Inside the “bottle” were her INTESTINES and plausibly her liver. I nearly died. Poor little thing. I forget the name but it is a congenital disorder whereby the intestines stick out when the baby is born. It seemed to be quite common because there were 3 other babies who had this disorder but they had already been operated on.

– Okay – Its not as hectic as this looks AT ALL, but I just wanted to give you an idea and other pictures are not really descriptive.

The other babies were pretty much in for the same thing as above, and there was quite a few children with burns – and I mean second and third degree burns… where the skin hangs off and they are actually going to be disfigured. A 7 month old baby was burned on the inside of the legs, and in between the fat folds of skin – must be very itchy and very painful! Luckily the genitals were not burned. However he had these terrible huge blisters on his ankles and feet – no matter how he lay, he would not be comfortable. He didn’t stop screaming. Another black baby’s face actually looked mottled – red and black. And the chest was this dark, raw red – completely burned off. And a girl of about 4ish, was burned in between the ankle and the knee. The mother said that she had burnt herself getting into the bath, but something fishy is going on because if she had stepped into the bath – her feet would have been burned and they were untouched.

When Marc arrived, I took him to the matron and she decided to place both of us in ICU. Apparently they were very understaffed, but ICU is generally boring. When we arrived they had just finished with an unsuccessful resus, and we were told to split into 2: 1 of us could take vital data observations, and the other was asked to help clear away the dead body. I volunteered to clear the dead body. I know, I know, I am imagining your mouth agape, with shock dancing in your eyes. But truth of the matter is that so many patients die at Helen Joseph Hospital, and I am so used to stripping them of invasive and non-invasive materials, wrapping up the body, and taking the corpse (usually stiff by the time the porter arrives! Lazy fuck.) to the morgue, whereas Marc is not familiar with the removal of dead bodies. But the dr then wanted to strip him and clear him so we did some vital data, and we were about to turn the one lady onto her side so we can rub her back and she had made this terrible smelly poo. Thing is, she was not wearing a nappy – why? WHY? Urgh, yuck.

Luckily we were called to go to the matron’s office and she said people had prepared food for us and to go to the dining room and wait for it. And boy did we wait! 3 cups of tea each later, which amounted to waiting 2 hours or so, and we decided we won’t wait for the food and went down to the canteen where Marc ordered a toasted cheese and I ordered yum pap and stew. As we were paying, the one lady called to let us know that the food had arrived. FML.

Hadley, Chris and Doron (all paramedics) came to join us then and when we all returned to ICU we were informed that since the protestors had moved away from the hospital, the nurses had returned to work. So basically we were left wandering around, and decided to go work in casualty.

It was pretty quiet because they were only accepting P1 patients (P1/ priority 1 are incredible life threatening injuries where patient may not always survive, P2 is when they are injured and do need to be seen but the injuries are less life threatening, P3 is when the patient can walk etc and is not in any form of a life-threatening condition, and lastly, P4… is dead). As we were about to leave at 17:30, the doors burst open, and 7 zombies shuffled in. The smell of charred flesh and clothing permeated through the casualty air, and I gagged. It was terrifying to watch the flesh either completely stripped off their bodies, displaying a deep raw read that seemed painful just to glance at, or the skin was hanging in folds, like torn, old curtains off a railing. They shuffled in, and we placed them immediately to sit on chairs, yet they were so burnt and shell-shocked that they struggled even with that. The one lady dropped to the ground, saying “I’m 5 months pregnant – please save my baby…” We placed them all in cubicles, where we smothered them in burn shield. One lady was nearly completely covered in burns; so much so that she lay naked on the table while they dressed her wounds, and looked like a mummy when they were done. The man TheBoyfriend and I were working on had around 20% burns, mostly on his hands and face. Once dressed, we went around giving tetanus injections and morphine. With a third degree burn you do not feel much pain as your nerve endings become completely charred and destroyed, but because a lot of the burns were in a variety of degrees, we give a tetanus injection and painkillers, because the pain is intense and incredible. We gave the lady who said she was pregnant a pregnancy test twice, which turned out to be negative. We had to call psychologists in to tell her that she is not pregnant…

While we were busy with these burn patients, another lady came in, and the nursing staff did not want to accept her. Basically she had thrown herself out of a second story window, and now had a broken bone just above the wrist, as well as what appeared to be a broken fracture. Before you judge, saying it was a suicide attempt, she had actually thrown herself out the window because a man was trying to force himself on her, and she was trying to get away. When they were finally convinced to accept her, they stripped her naked and attempted to thrust a catheter inside her. The male doctors working on her had just arrived and were incredibly rude. This revolting Spanish doctor slapped her when she refused to spread her legs so they could insert the catheter. HE.SLAPPED.HER while she is screaming and trying to keen her legs shut with her hands blocking her vagina, while pairs of hands grab her by the hands and twist them away, and other hands grab her by the knees and force them aside, while this lady howls in pain and the injustice of it all. Eventually they told her they are just going to “make her sleep” and give her dormican, and she said that they must give it to her, because I think to be honest that it is better than this humiliation and dehumanization. They then left and this one nice doctor and I were showing her the catheter, and telling her we need to get all the urine out so that we can go into the scan, especially if there is damage due to her broken pelvis. She still said no, and kept requesting the dormican. The one doctor then came back in, forced her legs apart, placed his fingers in between the labia of her vagina and spread them wide, and then thrust the catheter inside her urethra. I think the worst part for me besides their treatment of her is that halfway through this doctor inserting the catheter, she stopped making a sound. Although in pain, she did not allow one sound to leave her throat, as tears streamed down her face and onto her big, plump, exposed breasts. Holding her hand, I had to let go, and covered her with a blanket, but still, she was fresh from her experience with this terrible injustice, lying silent and violated on the stretcher.

I am utterly repulsed at this woman’s treatment, and wonder whether she will even be offered any counselling. I am pretty much speechless at the moment. How can these doctors forget basic human rights as well as patient rights?? A patient has the right to say no; thus they are not allowed to force her legs wide open and touch her inappropriately, as well as use verbal and physical abuse on her. I am in complete shock because I really thought this is something I would have the pleasure of not witnessing, however it appears that I am mistaken. I suppose I am not totally blind to the treatment the patients receive in the wards; I know they are treated as a nuisance, as sub-human in some instances. I know they are spoken down to and are treated rudely, but I also suppose that I like to see the good in people – to find joy in sadness, hope in despair, and mostly love within hatred. But this is a different type of hatred and I am flabbergasted. Of course nothing will be done against these monster doctors because “there will not be proof” – which of course there will not be, for who will be believed? The doctor or the patient???

Dinner at Gina was exquisite. It was great spending time with her, Paul and her toddler Aaron, as well as her brother (and my best friend) Cliff, and his girlfriend Kara. We had a ball – telling jokes, lot of laughing, lots of good food. Kind of seemed nice to feel wanted and appreciated. Dessert was absolutely amazing – red velvet cupcakes from Angel (The Cupcake Lady) and they were divine, and scrumptious!! Even TheBoyfriend enjoyed the cream cheese icing on top, and usually he averts those sort of things. I was incredibly impressed!!! Everything went well until Aaron got pretty much excited and started vomiting. Hopefully you all know that I.DON’ At all. Yeeeeuch! We left shortly after he vomited the 4th time :D.

After dinner, upon returning to casualty, it became pretty quiet and we left after 2 hours. Sleep – what sweet bliss!

On Saturday – I helped out at various wards at Helen Joseph Hospital (from now on referred to as HJH), and Sunday we spent 3 hours cleaning Ward 19. I will post some pictures once TheBoyfriend transfers them from my phone to my laptop as he has stolen my cable. Grrrrr.

The rest of the week there has been a whole lot of speculation with regards to the strike. It is escalating, and there is encouragement from those protesters that are striking to rope in others. Once again, there is a lot of intimidation – especially with regards to schools and hospitals. Teachers and nurses are bing pulled out, children are being threatened, and schools are pretty much completely disrupted!

I feel that this blog is becoming rather boring now, so I am going to end off.

Besides for the fact that it has  taken me over a week to write this blog. Yes, I am ashamed.

Please feel free to comment!



2 responses to this post.

  1. Normally I wouldn’t comment on posts but I felt that I had to as your writing style is really good. You have broken down a difficult area so that it easy to understand.


  2. This is a superb post and may be one that can be followed up to see what the results are

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