LNA, Ministry of Health clash over PPE

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Limpho Sello

TENSIONS are running high between the Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) and the Ministry of Health over the control of M290 000 worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) donated by Sekhametsi Development Trust.

The equipment was donated to the LNA on 13 August this year.

The LNA is accusing the Ministry of Health staff of distributing the donations to isolation centres without its consent.

Among the equipment donated to the LNA were over 1 300 face shields and 400 coveralls (Ebola suits) to be used in the Covid-19 fight. The PPE was meant to be distributed to all health facilities across the country.

However, the Ministry of Health allegedly unilaterally decided to distribute the equipment to the Berea and Mafeteng Covid-19 isolation centres thereby disadvantaging other frontline health workers.

The equipment had been taken to the Ministry of Health for quality assessment when the decision to distribute it to isolation centres was made. After the quality assessment, the ministry was also supposed to transport the PPE to all health centres across the country.

The ministry’s supply chain department requested to distribute some of the coveralls to isolation centres where staff had embarked onto a go-slow demanding PPE late last month. After getting a greenlight to distribute the coveralls, the ministry staff went on to distribute face shields to isolation centres sparking the rage of the LNA.

On Saturday, the association wrote to the ministry’s supply chain director ‘Mamojalefa Matšoara complaining about the ministry’s conduct of distributing the equipment without its consent. The LNA demanded that the face shields be returned as they were meant for nurses and nursing assistants as agreed to by the donor.

LNA spokesperson Busa Qhala said they were now working with the ministry to establish where the PPE was distributed as some of their members at the isolation centres were claiming that they had not received the equipment.

“It was a misunderstanding because the ministry staff took face shields which were not part of the agreement… The LNA is now working to recover the face shields and the ministry will have to explain why they took the face shields without the LNA’s approval.

“We also need to find out where the rest of the equipment, including the coveralls that the ministry requested, was distributed to ensure maximum accountability,” Mr Qhala said.

He said they would now find alternative transport to distribute the equipment to their members across the country to ensure that they reach the intended beneficiaries.

For her part, Ministry of Health director of supply chain yesterday said they had retuned the PPE to LNA.

She also said they were cutting ties with LNA due to the tension between the two entities.

“The LNA came to us asking for assistance to assess the quality of the equipment that was donated to them by Sekhametsi Development Trust, we did that. They even asked us to help them with distributing it.

“After assessing the PPE, that is when we recorded shortages in isolation centres and requested that we distribute the LNA equipment. We decided to also distribute the face shields because we had realised that they were disposable and were fit for use in isolation centres since they would be discarded afterwards.

“We also realised that distributing the disposable face shields to health facilities across the country would cause problems for us in terms of waste management,” Ms Matšoara said.

When the LNA queried the decision, she said, she asked its representatives to visit her office so that she could explain. It is then that the LNA demanded that all the PPE be returned from where it had been distributed.

She however, said they have since started returning the PPE. Some of the equipment that had been taken to Mafeteng has already been returned to LNA while that from Berea was expected last night.

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