HOSPERSA DEMANDS IMPROVED HEALTH WORKERS’ SAFETY DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

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HOSPERSA DEMANDS IMPROVED HEALTH WORKERS’ SAFETY DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

01 April 2020

Hospersa, a union organising in both the public and private healthcare sector as well as in tourism organisations [SANParks and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife], has demanded government to address the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issues faced by health workers in many of the health facilities around the country during the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown.  The Union has highlighted the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and clear guidelines for dealing with COVID-19, especially for Emergency Medical Services Personnel, as the burning issues raised by its members.  Hospersa has cautioned Government to listen to health workers’ concerns for the country to have a fighting chance against the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus.

Hospersa has come out warning the Department of Health over the OHS violations taking place in health facilities during the Coronavirus lockdown.  The Union has received reports from its members that there is not enough PPE in health facilities which puts health care workers’ lives at risk of contracting covid-19.  EMS workers have also raised concerns on the lack of guidelines provided to them when transporting sick patients who could have contracted the virus.  Hospersa has demanded government to deal with these concerns urgently if the lockdown is to be implemented successfully without health care workers contracting the virus at their workplaces.

“Hospersa is concerned by the Occupational Health and Safety contraventions in health facility, particularly the distribution of PPE for health workers”  said Hospersa Public Relations Officer Kevin Halama.  “Our members in all provinces have reported that government has not made provision for adequate PPE and they are expected to attend to patients without the necessary protection.  We demand government to urgently address the current PPE shortage which is putting health workers’ lives at risk and making them sacrificial lambs of this fight against covid-19,” added Halama.

“Our members working as EMS Personnel have also raised concerns regarding the lack of clear guidelines for transporting patients that might have contracted covid-19,” said Halama.  “EMS personnel are at the very first line of this fight and need a clear directive on how to executive their tasks when transporting patients suspected of covid-19.  Provision should also be made for the sanitising of EMS vehicles to ensure the virus does not spread from one patient to the next while being transported to a nearby health facility,” added Halama.

Hospersa has also written a letter to the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, [on 25 March 2020] highlighting health workers’ concerns.  In the letter, the Union raised concerns on the shortage of PPE, screening of employees, lack of clear guidelines for EMS personnel and requested special transport for health workers during the lockdown.  The minister’s office did not acknowledge nor respond to the Union’s letter.

“Hospersa is very disappointed that the Minister’s office has not responded nor even acknowledged the sent letter,” said Halama.  “While we consider ourselves as a social partner with government in the sector, it is shocking that our correspondence and input is falling on deaf ears especially at a time when government needs labour organisations to rally behind its plans to avert an even bigger crisis,” added Halama.

“The safety of health workers needs to be prioritised as they are the real foot soldiers in this fight against covid-19.  According to the OHS Act, employees have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.  However, such refusal for health workers is against their calling and duty to serve communities even in such unsafe working conditions.  Neglecting their plea for basic necessities like PPE will paralyse the service and deprive us of a real fighting chance against this deadly virus,” concluded Halama.

 

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

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