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24 March 2019

Hospersa is calling for greater commitment to the health and safety of health workers on the commemoration of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day.  The Union recognises that there are serious shortcomings in the already embattled South African health system leading to great risks being faced by workers in the health sector.  Hospersa has urged the employers in the health sector, especially the Department of Health, to commit all necessary resources in fighting the high prevalence of TB amongst health care workers.

Every year on 24 March, we commemorate World TB day to raise awareness about the disease and this year’s theme as announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is “It’s Time”.  The WHO reports that TB is the world’s deadliest infectious killer, claiming over 4 500 lives a day.  According to the WHO, the theme: “It’s Time” puts the accent on the urgency to act on the commitments made by global leaders when they met at the first-ever United Nations (UN) High Level meeting in September 2018 to:

  • Scale up access to prevention and treatment;
  • Build accountability;
  • To ensure sufficient and sustainable financing including research;
  • Promote an end to stigma and discrimination; and
  • Promote an equitable, rights-based and people-centred TB response.

Hospersa concurs with the WHO and believes that it is time for the South African Government to address the high prevalence of TB in the country especially amongst health care workers.

It is high time that TB prevention takes priority,” says Hospersa Public Relations Officer Kevin Halama.  “It is also high time that the South African Government addresses the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) shortcomings in public health facilities which continue to result in the high prevalence of TB amongst health care workers.  The health care profession is losing many qualified professionals at an alarming rate, as many health care workers fear the high occupational risks, and those who contract TB, contract Multi Drug-Resistant TB (MDR-TB), and TB outside of the lungs which is currently not compensated,” added Halama.

Being an airborne disease, TB is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets when released into the air.  Health care workers are left the most vulnerable when a person with untreated tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits and laughs, occurrences that happen often in waiting queues at the country’s hospitals and clinics.

In 2016, the WHO reported that South Africa (SA) has the second-highest TB incidence amongst health care workers in the world.  The WHO statistics revealed that SA accounted for 21% of the reported incidents amongst health care workers and there are fears that the situation could be worse as many cases do not get reported.

South African health care workers are at the cold face of both HIV and TB epidemics, and therefore exposed to both HIV and TBdisease daily and effectively increasing the risk of contracting both HIV and TB as an occupational disease,” said Halama.  “In fact, the WHO research shows that health care workers face up to eight (8) times the normal risk of TB infection when compared to the general population.  We fear that any gains being made in the fight against HIV and TB seem to be at the expense of the safety of health workers,” argued Halama.

“We demand that the Department of Health takes an active role in addressing the increasing cases amongst health care workers by setting aside a dedicated budget for routine screening, testing and for the management of TB in health care workers,” said Halama.

“The training of staff members in infection prevention and control should be done on a regular basis together with the issuing of certified N95 respiratory protective masks to health care workers and to patients in hospital waiting areas, where the spread of TB is at higher risk, as sick patients spend many hours waiting in confined and often poorly ventilated areas.  We also demand government to adhere to the OHS and Infection Control policies as well as call for the inclusion of extra pulmonary TB in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Disease Act,” added Halama.

Hospersa remains committed to the struggle for decent and safe work for all.  We therefore call on employers in the health sector to avail sufficient human and financial resources to resuscitate a health care system that is buckling under considerable pressure in dealing with TB, especially amongst health care workers: the forgotten heroes in the fight for a TB-free South Africa” concluded Halama.




Total words (excluding heading):  739

For more information please contact Hospersa Public Relations Officer Kevin Halama on 060-546-8166.

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