Durban – THE rapid increase in coronavirus infections among KwaZulu-Natal health-care workers was caused by the lack of measures in place to monitor compliance by health-care facility managers, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said.
The union was reacting to the fears of its members and alleged failure by the health department to provide employees with personal protective equipment.
“The province has no emergency plans in place to reduce or eliminate the chances of our members getting injured or sick when performing their duties. They don’t have measures in place to monitor compliance with set regulations by the Communicable Disease Centre and the Department of Public Service and Administration. They rely on reports from the facilities, which often paint a picture that shows compliance, whereas there’s none. That’s why we’ve taken the Health Minister (Dr Zweli Mkhize) to the labour court,” provincial deputy chairperson Nobukhosi Xulu said.
Mkhize will appear before the Labour Court in Gauteng today after a delay in responding to demands made by the union in a letter on March 30.
In the letter, the union states that it has “explicitly expressed our serious concerns with regard to the glaring weaknesses and inadequacies of the Guidelines on the Management of the Coronavirus in the Public Service, as presented to us by the employer on March 17 at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council. We have since submitted our proposals in subsequent meetings”.
Xulu said the court action was an act of desperation to rescue their members, who comprised highly exposed front-line workers including doctors, nurses, cleaners, and ambulance and morgue workers. “Last week we discovered that in St Augustine’s Hospital we had 11 of our members infected by the same patient they were looking after. Over and above that, we’re told that they (the members) were not told that the patient had tested positive with Covid-19.
“Look at the chain reaction. Family members of the patient were exposed to the virus, and our members had already exposed their families to the virus by the time the patient’s status was discovered,” said Xulu.
Health Department spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said they rejected the unions’ claims as “untruthful and baseless”.
“Now is not a time to grandstand or court controversy, but rather a time to expend our energies positively and constructively to mount a united front to halt the spread of COVID – 19.”
By Chris Ndaliso