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Coronavirus in South Africa: Whistleblower questions winter tent deaths

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Jeanette Mlombo says corruption and carelessness are responsible for her son’s death

Suspected Covid-19 patients were routinely left for hours in an open tent, in sub-zero temperatures, outside a South African hospital during the mid-winter peak of the pandemic, leading to “many” people dying of suspected hypothermia, according to an exclusive investigation by BBC News.

The revelations have emerged as South Africa’s government has acknowledged and condemned widespread corruption and mismanagement during its response to the pandemic.

“It was freezing in that tent. As soon as night falls it’s horrible, you can see the patients declining. Hypothermia is one of the major causes of death here. Especially in that tent,” said a doctor at Sebokeng Hospital – a whistleblower who spoke to us on condition of anonymity.

The doctor said 14 people had reportedly died in the tent over one 48-hour period – though not all of hypothermia.

‘Disorganised havoc’

“We’re tired and sad and fearful for our patients. I ask myself how many people need to die unnecessarily for there to be an adequate investigation,” she said.

Image caption

The tent at Sebokeng Hospital was erected in the car park

The doctor described “horrific” scenes in the marquee-sized tent – erected in the car park and used by the hospital as a makeshift triage and waiting room – over the course of several cold and hectic weeks in July, with elderly patients collapsing after being left for two days or more without sanitation, food or proper heating.

She said sick people were forced to crowd around three small electric heaters that frequently broke.

“I felt very stressed, angry, [and] hopeless. The lack of resources in that tent is an absolute joke… disorganised havoc.

“We don’t have drugs. No ventilator equipment. There was PPE lying all over the place, waiting to infect more people,” said the doctor, who complained that a number of medical staff had caught the virus as a result of the conditions.

“It’s corruption and carelessness,” said Jeanette Mlombo, whose son, Martin, died last month at Sebokeng Hospital, at the age of 30.

She said he had not been tested for Covid-19 and had initially complained of swollen legs, but had been left for a total of 12 hours in the tent.

“It was freezing. He was shivering, starving. He said: ‘I slept the whole night here without any blanket. I’m going to die. Nobody’s taking care of me,'” Ms Mlombo recalled.

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Leaked messages have revealed that the decision to use tents provoked an angry backlash from experts in the provincial health department.

Internal discussions on a WhatsApp group, seen by the BBC, show that medical advisers urged management not to use the tents, precisely because of the risk to patients.

Some read:

  • “Tents are very cold at present.”
  • “I have never been in favour of tents… I find making our people sleep in cold tents inhuman.”
  • “Tents are a no-go area for me.”

Hospital ‘well stocked’

Responding to the whistleblower’s allegations about Sebokeng Hospital, a spokesman for Gauteng Department of Health, Kwara Kekana, rejected the suggestion that “many” people had died because of the cold, writing in an email that “death statistics based on the hospital report does not reflect death diagnosed by hypothermia”.

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Media captionCoronavirus in South Africa: A day in the life of a contact tracer

The spokeswoman also denied claims of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a lack of proper donning and doffing areas, sharing documents that showed the hospital’s stocks of hand sanitiser, gowns, and other relevant equipment in August.

In recent weeks, the situation at Sebokeng has reportedly improved significantly, in part because of steps taken by management, but also, it would seem, because the number of infected cases has begun to drop dramatically.

Overall, South Africa appears to have weathered the first surge of the pandemic with some success.

Some provinces and hospitals have been widely praised for their response.

The government’s early and aggressive lockdown regime has also won praise – as well as fierce criticism from some quarters.

‘Hyenas profiting’

But the pandemic has also exposed deep institutional weaknesses, including a widespread culture of corruption and apparent nepotism, and the dangers of a system of “cadre deployment” that has seen key departments led by allegedly incompetent political appointees from the governing African National Congress (ANC).

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During the pandemic the prices for some surgical masks in South Africa have been marked up by 900%

President Cyril Ramaphosa has angrily condemned the corruption, citing examples of price hikes of 900%, and lashing out at “hyenas” seeking to profit from disaster.

A number of senior officials and ministers have been criticised for instances where their relatives have secured large contracts from government.

The South African authorities say they are now investigating government departments over irregularities in coronavirus-related tenders worth 5bn rand ($290m; £220m).

The whistleblower at Sebokeng told us that she and other staff had repeatedly complained about conditions, and inquired about how special Covid-19 relief funds were being disbursed.

“We haven’t seen that money. I do know management is aware of our struggles. We’ve tried multiple times as doctors and nurses to try to ask management where the money is being allocated,” the doctor said.

“Are we going to get more staff, more resources? And we don’t really get answers, and that is devastating for us.”

Contracts being investigated

The hospital’s communication department declined our request for an interview, saying all Covid-19 queries should be directed to the provincial health department.

In response to these complaints raised by the medics, Ms Kekana said the hospital held regular staff meetings, and had a compliance officer and a dedicated team to ensure standards were met.

The local government minister in charge of health in Gauteng Province, Bandile Masuku, was recently forced to take a leave of absence following corruption allegations against him. Mr Masuku has denied the allegations, saying he was not involved in, nor did he influence, the department’s procurement processes.

Investigators are examining more than 100 Covid-19-related contracts in the province.

“This pandemic has exposed a lot of our system’s flaws. But hopefully we can do something about it,” said the whistleblower.

“We need to learn from this pandemic so we are better equipped to deal with other illnesses in the future.”

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Media captionHow not to wear a face mask



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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