Johannesburg – More than 300 heath workers have been infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus since it entered South Africa’s shores, a presentation from the Department of Health reveals.
KZN is the most affected province, with a total of 138 health workers positive, followed by Gauteng with 96 and the Western Cape with 64.
In KZN and Gauteng, most of the cases come from the private sector, whereas in the Western Cape, all 64 cases are from the public sector.
South Africa has had just under 5 000 Covid-19 cases and 93 deaths since the first detected case in March.
The first confirmed case was that of a Hilton man, who was confirmed as the country’s first laboratory confirmed case on March 5.
The data from the Department of Health shows the private sector was the hardest hit, so far, with 195 infected healthcare workers, compared to 133 in the public sector.
In terms of doctors however, there were more public sector doctors who were infected compared to those in the private sector.
The data shows there 25 doctors who were Covid-19 positive in the public sector, compared with 19 in the private sector.
The most cases are recorded in the Western Cape, where 10 doctors from public hospitals are positive, followed by the Free State and Gauteng, who have 8 cases each.
In the Free State, all 8 positive doctors are from the private sector, whereas in Gauteng, all 8 are from the public sector.
Nurses were most infected, according to the department, accounting for 52% of all cases.
There are 173 nurses who are infected in the public and private sector, with private sector nurses accounting for 71% of the total.
In the private sector, 123 nurses have contracted Covid-19, while 50 public sector nurses have tested positive for the virus.
KZN was the hardest hit, with 94 nurses being positive, and among them, 12 being from the public sector.
In Gauteng, 44 nurses were infected with the coronavirus, and 38 of them came from the private sector.
Gauteng was the only province with infected port health workers, with 8.
Meanwhile, the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa), said it was saddened by the number of health workers who had tested positive to the coronavirus.
Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines said the health sector was plagued with staffing shortages, and said the health workers testing positive would add more strain to the industry.
“We have spent the first part of the lockdown battling with the government and private health sector organisations like Netcare to tighten protective measures for health workers.
“We have been vocal on the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and called for the employer to provide safe transport for health workers as most employees in public and private health facilities make use of public transport to reach their workplaces.
“We have also called for regular screening of health workers, rotation of staff and counselling facilities to deal with the anxiety amongst health workers created by this deadly virus,” said Desfontaines.
Hospersa has called on health workers that are over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions to not be forced to treat Covid-19 patients. They are also calling on health workers to be exempted from tax during the pandemic.
“Such health workers should be placed in wards with less risk and still be provided with the necessary PPE,” said Desfontaines.
“The increasing number of positive cases among health workers further justifies our call for tax exemption for all categories of health workers during this fight against Covid-19,” said Desfontaines.
“Health workers put their lives at risk on a daily basis, working in under-resourced and under-staffed facilities without recognition of their bravery even with the payment of a danger allowance.
“We demand government to prioritise the safety and recognition of the many brave women and men in the health sector that are at the forefront of this fight against this deadly virus,” said Desfontaines.
* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL’s special #Coronavirus page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za
By Sihle Mlambo