Premier must intervene in KZN’s health crisis

Issued by Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL – DA KZN Spokesperson on Health
20 Jan 2021 in Press Statements

The Democratic Alliance (DA) urges KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Premier, Sihle Zikalala, to intervene in the Department of Health’s (DoH) Human Resources crisis following the underplaying of Minister Zweli Mkhize and MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu of the health worker crisis within the province’s health system.

During a recent visit to the province, Mkhize and Simelane-Zulu went through the platitudes of calling healthcare workers heroes – which they are – but failed to provide solutions to the major problems they are facing. Additionally, the KZN health system is under immense pressure and on the point of breakdown.

There has been over 7 000 infected healthcare workers and sadly, almost 100 have passed away. Additionally, there are hundreds of healthcare workers in self-quarantine, due to being contacts. This puts immense pressure on the remaining doctors and nurses in our hospitals and clinics. These remaining workers, in already understaffed facilities, are unable to properly cope with the increasing patient numbers.

During this time of Covid-19, we must remember that other medical conditions continue to require medical care and hospital admission. At Phoenix CHC, patients wait in long queues daily to access care. There are some who arrive at the clinic at 6am, only to be treated 4-5pm, even those awaiting a Covid-19 test. At Wentworth Hospital, a patient with a deep bleeding wound allegedly waited over 8 hours for stitches. These are just some of the numerous patient complaints received both personally and via social media. All of this can be due to a failing health system and debilitating staff shortages.

It very clear that the KZN DoH has no plan to rectify the staff shortages at public facilities. To date there has been no concrete plan to bring in additional doctors and nurses when others have to go into self-quarantine. This has been echoed by both medical and nursing organisations and trade unions. While healthcare workers, like myself, took up the call for assistance, there has been no to limited feedback. I am still awaiting placement to assist in a health facility.

Premier Zikalala must urgently intervene in the situation in the KZN DoH Human Resources crisis. It is already impacting on patient care and the wellbeing of healthcare workers in the system.