Safe space for health-care workers

The founder of Ubuntu Beds, Kim Whitaker, standing outside one of the bed-and-breakfast accommodations used for health-care workers to self-isolate.

The Ubuntu Beds non-profit is providing a safe haven for all health-care workers who need to self-isolate during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ubuntu Beds was founded in March by Kim Whitaker, from Vredehoek, who has recovered from Covid-19.

Their main objective is to unite hospitality businesses that now stand empty with health-care workers. There is no cost to the health-care worker.

Ms Whitaker says Ubuntu Beds has given them a way to show their gratitude to the health-care heroes while supporting local tourism businesses.

“By offering accommodation it means they can keep their doors open and, most importantly, retain their staff,” she says.

Manon de Waart, who is the co-founder of the Co-hosts self-catering facility in the City Bowl, says they have already hosted a few nurses.

“Obviously Covid-19 has affected the intake of tourists; we are just glad we can open up our doors for a good cause and are grateful we can help.”

Ms De Waart says Ubuntu Beds pays the basic fees, which assist with the operating costs of the accommodation, and they also do the deep cleaning of rooms once the health workers leave.

Ubuntu Beds, with the support of the FirstRand South African Pandemic Intervention and Relief Effort (SPIRE) fund, hopes to raise enough funding through private donations and corporate sponsorship to accommodate up to 2 500 public health-care workers over the next four months.

Ms Whitaker says the organisation’s goal is to raise R16 million to ensure that health-care workers are taken care of before the peak in Covid-19 infections arrives.

Medical receptionist Busi Madala, 32, from Langa, who works at a private practice in Kenilworth, used an Ubuntu Bed at a bed-and-breakfast in Kenilworth after she tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of May.

“It was a difficult time for me as I was isolated from my family, though I knew I could not self-isolate at home,” she says.

Ms Madala says that she did not have any contact with the bed-and-breakfast owner as she brought her own clothes and food to the accommodation. She only needed extra towels, which were provided.

“These facilities are important for anyone who can’t self-isolate and needs to be alone in order to heal from Covid-19,” she says.

Ms Madala has returned to work.

Nurse Cynthia Nongindzi, 37, from Imizamo Yethu, had a patient testing positive for Covid-19 at a private health facility in Hout Bay.

Sister Nongindzi contracted the virus at the end of May. She needed to self-isolate and heard about Ubuntu Beds from a colleague. She stayed at a self-catering facility in Observatory.

“When I used Ubuntu Beds, I needed to share all my work credentials, which I did, and they assisted me really fast,” she says.

She had minimal contact with the manager who only welcomed her. If she needed anything, she would WhatsApp the manager and the items would be delivered to her door outside her room.

“This is a hard time we are going through and Ubuntu Beds are really helpful,” she says.

Nurse Melissa Mandes, 30, from Parow, who works in a private hospital in the City Bowl, also made use of Ubuntu Beds by staying at a self-catering facility in the City Bowl.

Sister Mandes came into contact with someone who had Covid-19 so she took the necessary precautions.

“In order for me to protect my family, I needed to self-isolate.”

Sister Mandes even went further to protect herself by changing her own bed linen and doing her own cleaning to have minimal contact with staff at the facility.

“This organisation plays a big role,” she says. “If we can keep the virus in one place, we can keep it out of communities and away from our families.”

If anyone would like to make a donation towards Ubuntu Beds or any health-care worker from anywhere in the province would like to make use of Ubuntu Beds can access them here or email info@ubuntubeds.org or WhatsApp 071 300 1672.