The surge of the novel corona virus scourge is getting worse by the day and health services providers are the most vulnerable.
According to the ministry of health’s Deputy Principal-Secretary (DPS) Advocate Lesimole Moletsane some four employees of the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), have tested positive to the pandemic, a feat which is hampering NRL’s service delivery by delaying release of Covid-19 test results.
In an interview with this paper the DPS indicated that main problem to delaying issuing of covid-19 certificates is shortage of staff at the laboratory.
“There is a backlog of tests that need to conducted at the laboratory because three or four of the laboratory staff have tested positive to covid-19 and that affects the whole process, which is why the release of certificates is affected,” she said.
This follows a public outcry by Lesotho citizens who work in South Africa, who were unable to cross back into the republic to report to work after Christmas holidays, owing to unavailability of covid-19 certificate results after they had been tested as a pre-requisite to crossing.
The tests, which would otherwise be conducted for a cost at the border or private health facilities, are freely done at government health centres and hospitals as subsidy extended to Basotho in order to facilitate their travel back to SA.
Newsday spoke to some of them queued at the Queen II hospital facility in Maseru earlier this week, who say that delay in results’ delivery is very frustrating, adding that they deal with rude attendants who tell them to go to the border or anywhere if they do not have the patience to await their test results when they eventually come out.
One ‘Mamolimolle Mashaba* from Ts’enola, told Newsday that she has been waiting for her results’ certificate for a week whereas she was told to return for it within three days.
“I have been queuing here for almost a week now. I came on 8 January because I tested had on 4 January and had been told to come for certificate after three days of testing but until today I have not received the certificate. The heart-breaking thing is that when we enquire we are told that if we cannot be patient we should go to the border gate and test with money,” she said.
She said there are instances wherein people get their results so late that they cannot be used at the border, because the requirement is that for one to be permitted to cross into SA they are to produce a covid-19 certificate not older than 72 hours.
“The most frustrating thing is that when the certificate is issued, as I have seen with other people, it’s either it is almost expiring or has expired because it is released after many days. That means after queuing for those days we are still going to have a problem when crossing to South Africa. It is pointless to queue here. Slow services here have caused many people to opt for illegal crossing, I am also thinking of going that route,” she said.
Mashaba stated that her work is at stake because she has been postponing her arrival date. She works as a domestic worker in Gauteng.
“I have been asking for extensions to report for work from the January 4 when I did the test. I do not even know if my job is still safe since I have not heard from my employers even after leaving them messages,” she said worriedly.
Another SA-bound and worried worker, ‘Mamaitse Lampi* from Ha Paki Mazenod indicated that, it seems like people working to issue certificates, were not trained for the job.
“It looks like people working here were not trained on how they should carry-out their work. There is no order in issuing of the certificates. I tested on the second day of the year but people who tested on the fifth day have already received their certificates, but I am still here waiting for mine,” she protested.
She indicated that in the eyes of the government of Lesotho, trying to do the right thing and doing the illegal thing is the same? “Before our government nothing is good. Trying to do the right thing and the bad thing are the same. I have decided that, if today I am going home without the certificate, tomorrow I am going to test at the border gate cross illegally into South Africa. I will figure out everything if I get caught,” she said.
Lampi stated that, queuing for testing and certificates maybe one of the factors that contributes to increased cases of the covid-19.
“We might contract COVID-19 while queuing here because we take a long time crowded here. If I tested negative on January 2, by the time I get that certificate that says I am negative, I may actually be positive,” she said.
Meanwhile, Moletsane indicated that it everyone’s right to seek clarity on everything if they think something is not going right.
“It is not right for Basotho nationals who seek services, especially those who need covid-19 certificates to go back to their workplaces, to be told to go to border to pay for the service they entitled to for free. There have to be consequences for staffers who treat people like that when they have committed to serve the nation,” Moletsane said stating that she will make sure she goes and check the situation in the ground.
For his part, Communication Manager of the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) Baroane Phenethi outlined that NACOSEC is only coordinating the processes.
“The Ministry of Health, through the Department of Laboratories is the one responsible for issues around testing. However, we are aware of the delay in the issuance of certificates. When trying to address that they indicate that there is a backlog in the laboratories hence the delays,” Phenethi said.
Phenethi said even if there maybe queues on places of testing and where people are expected to collect their certificates it is each person’s responsibility to adhere to the set protocol. “Wear masks, sanitise and keep both physical and social distancing,” he said.