The Democratic Alliance (DA) is deeply concerned by the rise in Covid-19 infections amongst KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) healthcare workers.
This after a report from the Provincial Command Council which confirms that as at 22 July there were 828 infected healthcare staff, including 473 nurses and 83 doctors. Sadly, there have already been seven deaths and the DA extends its sincere condolences to the families and colleagues of the deceased during this very difficult period.
The DA does not believe that KZN’s Department of Health (DoH) is doing enough to protect our province’s healthcare workers.
This is clear – not only from the figures – but from the numerous and ongoing number of protests by staff at hospitals, clinics and the province’s Emergency Medical Rescue Service (EMRS) regarding poor quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided, delays in training by the DoH on how to deal with Covid-19 cases and sub-standard working conditions.
The DA has also received reports of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital (MGMH) being overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases, with the result that patients are being housed in all wards, rather than just the originally dedicated area. There is also a shortage of nursing staff and those on duty are unable to cope with the patient load. Further to this are the worrying claims by staff at the Phoenix Community Health Clinic (CHC) and RK Khan Hospital, where sick healthcare workers were threatened by facility management to report for duty. This despite being unwell.
This type of treatment of healthcare staff during a health pandemic is completely unacceptable. Our healthcare workers are breadwinners, fathers, mothers, siblings and grandparents who are living in constant fear of becoming infected and taking the virus home to their families and communities. They are our frontline heroes and praise for them cannot be limited to applause or speeches. It must also include actions.
The DA in KZN today calls on the province’s DoH to implement the following measures to protect our healthcare workers;
– That Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, along with KZN Transport MEC, Bheki Ntuli urgently negotiate the start of a provincial ‘Red Dot Taxi’ Programme to provide special transport services for healthcare workers to their facilities. This programme was pioneered in the DA-led Western Cape and ensures that healthcare staff travel safely and avoid community spread through the use of crowded taxis;
– That the DoH immediately institute the recommendations of the St Augustines Hospital report which includes the division of hospitals into red, yellow and green streams along with specific PPE requirements. This will assist in protecting both staff and patients;
– That all casualty staff be provided with full PPE due to the fact that the Covid-19 status of these patients are unknown and with high community spread they should all be treated as positive
– That there be an immediate investigation into all claims of staff intimidation to return to work prematurely by hospital management and;
– That the DoH ensure transparency between management and healthcare workers regarding infection rates within facilities in order to allow staff to know their risk and take requisite precautions.
Admiration for KZN’s healthcare workers must move beyond just mere words. It must be supported with action. The DA expects MEC Simelane-Zulu to report to the Health Portfolio Committee on progress implementing these interventions
The DA will continue to fight for the safety and wellbeing of healthcare workers and patients. We remain committed to partnering with the DoH to provide workable solutions during the Covid-19 pandemic.