Community health workers conducted Covid-19 screening interviews in Langa this week.    MTHUTHUZELI NTSEKU
Community health workers conducted Covid-19 screening interviews in Langa this week. MTHUTHUZELI NTSEKU

Community health workers raise concerns over lack of PPE

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published May 27, 2020

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Cape Town - A webinar discussion hosted by the People’s Health Movement and the Atlantic Fellows at Tekano laid bare the challenges community health workers faced.

They painted vivid pictures of their fears of contracting illnesses.

They said there was a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

A health worker in Khayelitsha, Nothemba Maduna, said as people at the coalface they were terrified.

“We work under unfavourable conditions every day, but because of the passion, we ensure we get the job done. With this pandemic we now work more than the eight hours we normally worked, with our safety compromised in most cases.

“We walk long distances, risking getting mugged, raped and, worse, getting killed. We are even accused of spreading the virus,” she said.

People’s Health Movement co-ordinator Tinashe Njanji said a lack of protective gear was a challenge.

“I am glad that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed that our health-care workers have been working without PPE. We have come across heartbreaking stories where these workers had to use plastic bags and home-made clothing for them to provide health services to community members,” he said.

The workers also spoke of injury and illness they contracted while at work, and the lack of accountability from the government.

Health policy researcher Shehnaz Munshi said the government couldn’t account for the people it expected to deliver services to the community.

“This is quite a bold statement to make, especially considering the circumstances and dangers these health workers operate under.

“They find themselves going back to the same clinic they refer patients to, and they get treated like community members, not as health workers.

“They stand in long queues and are not prioritised by the health system. They have been protesting and sharing their stories, however, it falls on deaf ears.

“In some way this speaks to how framing of the community health work is valued, whether we see them as health workers, or as people who are going to pick up the burdens of ill health in our communities,” she said.

Munshi said these workers, mostly women, were not only carrying the burden of public health failures but also of failing education, social systems and unemployment.


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Cape Argus

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