HOSPERSA CALLS FOR IMPROVED HEALTH WORKERS’ SAFETY ON WORLD AIDS DAY
01 December 2017
Hospersa has maintained its stance on not celebrating victory in the fight against HIV/AIDS for over the last decade and half. The Union has cited that while South Africa ticks the achievements on the HIV/AIDS scorecard, it warns against the rising levels of infection on health care workers due to the gross violations of Occupational Health Safety (OHS) in public health facilities. The Union has also called on the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) to fully implement the National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2017 – 2022 to enhance the safety of health care workers in their workplaces.
Hospersa has come out criticising the Department of Health over the gross OHS violations taking place in public health facilities in the prevention of HIV and Tuberculosis (TB) transmission. According to SANAC the global figure for HIV positive persons is 36.7 million with South Africa as the largest epidemic which accounts for 19% of global infections with just over 7 million South African being HIV positive. South Africa also has the biggest Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) programme with 3.4 million people on treatment. However, despite this massive countrywide testing and treatment programme, according to SANAC, SA’s new infections still account for 15% of all new infections globally and 11% of all global deaths. The Union has also cited that it is disappointed by the dilapidated state of the public health care system and has nothing to celebrate during World Aids Day.
“On this World AIDS Day, Hospersa maintains that the perfect storm in the HIV-TB prevention is brewing especially amongst health care workers,” said Elray David, Hospersa Deputy Manager, Education and Gender. “The recent figures only reveal that we are losing the fight and Government’s failure to provide adequate Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) protection for health care workers is also putting their lives at risk,” added David.
It is reported that the South African public health care system, which employs close to 300 000 health care workers, delivers the world’s largest HIV and TB services. However, the gains on the roll out of this programme seem to have been at the expense of the safety of health workers. It is further reported that the lack of health and safety programmes for health care workers is putting their lives at risk. Workers that get exposed to HIV positive blood fluids through needle stick injuries are not being provided with a medication that has mild side-effects.
“We must spare a thought for health care workers who are the unsung heroes in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said David. “More needs to be done by government to address the OHS contraventions putting lives at risk. In some countries needle stick injuries are reduced by using retractable or safe needle devices. Other options include less invasive surgical procedures to reduce the risk of HIV infection. These considerations are lacking in SA even though the risks are so high,” argued David.
“On 3 October 2017, Hospersa met with the Director General (DG) for the National Department of Health and addressed some of these concerns,” mentioned David. “The DG acknowledged the department’s lack of an OHS policy and committed to a swift response to our call for an emergency task team to address these issues. We have not received any response to date,” added David.
“We remain committed to the struggle for decent and safe work for all. We also call on employers in the health sector to avail sufficient human, financial and structural resources to strengthen a health system buckling under exceptional pressure. We call on SANAC to make good on the implementation of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2017 – 2022 for health care workers, the unsung heroes that carry the burden of rolling out arguably the world’s most important treatment campaign,” concluded David.
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For more information please contact Elray David, Hospersa Deputy Manager, Education and Gender – 082-6120573.
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