HOSPERSA CONCERNED BY HEALTH SYSTEM COLLAPSE AS COVID-19 PEAKS IN RSA

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HOSPERSA CONCERNED BY HEALTH SYSTEM COLLAPSE AS COVID-19 PEAKS IN RSA

30 July 2020

Hospersa, a Union with more than 60 000 members in both the public and private health sector, has raised concerns over the country’s healthcare system citing that it could collapse as the COVID-19 peak looms closer.  The Union says the healthcare system is buckling under pressure due non-compliance to COVID-19 regulations in facilities, chronic levels of staff shortages as well as corruption and maladministration in the Department of Health (DoH).  Hospersa says it will also have no choice but request its members to withdraw their labour should the DoH continue to show a blind eye to health workers’ genuine concerns.

According to the latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa has the fifth highest COVID-19 infection rate in the world with close to half a million positive cases and just over seven thousand (7000) death.  Many analysts have predicted that the country will peak in late August to early September, giving the DoH just under a month to prepare for the coming storm.  It has also been reported that more than 10 000 healthcare workers in forty (40) countries have contracted the virus.  Disturbingly, South African healthcare workers make up two thirds of the confirmed infections amongst healthcare workers in the continent.

Hospersa has joined other labour organisations calling for improvements in the country’s healthcare system which is buckling under pressure to deal with the pandemic.  The core of the concerns raised by healthcare workers includes the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), non-compliance to COVID-19 regulations in health facilities, high levels of staff shortages as well as corruption and maladministration.  The Union says it will also hold discussions to withdraw its members’ labour should the DoH fail to address healthcare workers’ genuine concerns.

“Hospersa has previously told its members to down tools when expected to work in an unsafe environment,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “Instead, we have noted our members’ complaints that the employer resorts to charging them with misconduct when they refuse to work in unsafe environments.  We will now have no choice but to also request our members to ‘stay-away’ from work to put pressure on the DoH to address their concerns,” added Desfontaines.

“Lack of PPE for healthcare workers has been a burning issue for years and is now exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Desfontaines.  “Hospersa has also found inconsistencies with the compliance to COVID-19 regulations in a number of facilities.  Healthcare workers are expected to continue working while waiting for test results, fumigation is not taking place in some workplaces after a confirmed case, workers with comorbidities have been expected to continue working as normal while others are expected to take up additional duties like the cleaning of wards and serving of meals due to chronic levels of staff shortages.  All of these concerns are being raised on a weekly basis with the various provincial Health Members of the Executive Council yet nothing is being done to remedy the situation,” said Desfontaines.

“The cadre deployee phenomenon has also had a devastating effect on the procurement of essential goods in the DoH,” argued Desfontaines.  “Almost every week we see reports of provincial health departments caught up in dodgy dealings on the procurement of PPE, sanitisers, not to mention the controversial scooter ambulance tender as senior officials are try to loot as much as they can during their term of office.  To date, no officials have been brought to book for these illegal tenders, instead patient care is compromised by the deep-rooted corruption and maladministration in the DoH,” said Desfontaines.

“While the Minister [of Health] can publicly acknowledge these shortcomings and commit to addressing them, it surprises us that his frequent roadshows in provinces have not revealed these vivid concerns,” said Desfontaines.  “Like Nero playing his fiddle while Rome was burning, the Minister continues to turn a blind eye to healthcare workers’ concerns.  We can only hope his latest commitment to remedy the situation is more than just an old song being played while the healthcare system struggles on the brink of collapse,” concludes Desfontaines.

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Total words (excluding heading):  672

For interviews please contact HOSPERSA Public Relations Officer Kevin Halama – 060 546-8166.

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