The Department of Health fails healthcare workers.

By Yonelisa Mabotyi

South African healthcare workers have protested over poor working conditions and urged the government to end corruption in the procurement of Coronavirus personal protective equipment. However, these grievances appear to be ignored by the department and government officials and thus have caused healthcare workers nationally to be frustrated.

Linen cupboards at Port Elizabeth’s Provincial and Livingstone hospitals are running bare and doctors are struggling to admit patients because they do not have enough hospital gowns or sheets to prepare beds for them. Patients are advised to bring  linen and one patient was seen trying to cover herself with newspaper to stay warm.

It is reported that there are numerous issues with the linen bank and laundry service in the public hospital sector. These issues include unresolved labour disputes, insufficient laundry aids. The staff also fears contracting COVID-19 from the patient’s linen. This has resulted in a complete malfunction of laundry services at the hospital, posing a further risk to patients and staff.

Workers at Dora Nginza Hospital in Gqeberha, including general workers, nurses and administration staff, downed tools from 9 to 11:45 am on Monday, 11 April in protest over outstanding performance payments. Protesting workers are complaining about the poor state of health services at Eastern Cape public institutions.

According to the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa(DENOSA), their demands include danger allowance during the period of Lockdown; Absorption of all contract nurses; Filling vacant position to ease pressure on nurses; Urgent attention to the slow implementation of the new organogram that seeks to provide slavery and more burden to the nurses; Translation of nurses salaries to the reasonable and competitive scale; Restoration of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to nursing education; Lastly rural allowances for emergency nurses working under terrible conditions.

Following the protests at Dora Nginza, the Minister of health, Zweli Mkhize briefed the media. He stated that the challenges of the Eastern Cape are not new. He continues to say that there are issues that relate to several aspects such as funding being a challenge throughout the province. Lack of human resource, weakness in leadership management and issues relating to infrastructure which lead to gaps. He concludes by saying in general, health services are underfunded and need an increase in funding.

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