KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO/Africa News Agency
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO/Africa News Agency

KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane says the department wants to hire Covid-19 temp workers in spite of financial issues

By Thami Magubane Time of article published May 5, 2021

Share this article:

DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health wants to absorb more than 12 000 temporary workers that were employed during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak despite the department’s admission that it was in “a dire financial state”.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane revealed this while addressing members of the finance portfolio committee during a virtual meeting yesterday morning.

The department justified its recommendation by saying these workers had done a great job and were still needed by the department. The total budget for the department amounts to R50 billion, second only to that of the department of education.

Despite this allocation, the healyh department was struggling to meet some of its staff needs.

“I must be the first one to indicate that things are not looking very rosy for the department, for a number of reasons. The first one is the ordinary reduction of funds that we had all been expecting,” said Simelane.

“When Covid-19 came it added to the challenges. We are having an extremely difficult time financially; we are caught between a rock and a hard place. We have difficult choices of where cutting something will not be popular with one group or another,” she told the committee.

She said lack of funds was preventing the department from having a full staff complement, which was negatively impacting service delivery.

"Due to staff shortages, the current available staff is physically exhausted and on the brink of burning out.“

Simelane said they were fighting to at least reach a staff complement of 60% in all hospitals to ensure that service delivery was not affected, warning that without this community members might continue receiving bad service.

She said in light of the staff shortages, the department had written to the Cabinet requesting to absorb 12 000 workers that the department had hired last year, as it tried to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

“When we employed them last year they were given a contract of six months, which was extended for another three months in December. But in March I went back to the Cabinet and indicated that it looked like we might be getting a third wave of Covid-19. I made a request that these contracts be extended for another six month, so we will have the staff until September.

“We have (since) decided as a department that we do need these workers; they have contributed a lot in the fight that we had been faced with. Our request to the Cabinet is that we absorb these 12 000-plus workers to be part of our own workforce,” Simelane said.

To afford these workers, the department would have to find funds internally, including cutting spending on other projects.

“We say if we need 10 cleaners, can we at least get 6 of those. We cannot run facilities the way we run them; we will continue to have the complaints that we have now. Our nurses are exhausted and burned out.”

Mazwi Ngubane, Nehawu leader in the Harry Gwala region, said the unions had pushed for the contract workers to be employed permanently, on account of there being shortages.

“The staff are burning out. A single nurse is doing work that should be done by five people. Many have lost people they worked with. A hospital like Edendale has lost many nurses, and although many have recovered from the illness, emotionally and mentally they are also down,” Ngubane said.

Denosa provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said the impact of staff shortages was reflected in the civil claims that have been instituted by patients against the department. “If you analyse them, you could see that many of these things could have been avoided if there were enough staff,” he said.THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health wants to absorb more than 12 000 temporary workers who were employed during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak, despite the department’s admission that it was in “a dire financial state”.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane revealed this while addressing members of the finance portfolio committee during a virtual meeting yesterday morning.

The department justified its recommendation by saying the workers had done a great job and were still needed. The total budget for the department amounts to R50 billion, second only to that of the Department of Education.

Despite this allocation, the Health Department was struggling to meet some of its staff needs. “I must be the first one to indicate that things are not looking very rosy for the department, for a number of reasons. The first one is the ordinary reduction of funds that we had all been expecting,” said Simelane.

“When Covid-19 came, it added to the challenges. We are having an extremely difficult time financially; we are caught between a rock and a hard place,” she told the committee.

She said lack of funds was preventing the department from having a full staff complement, which was negatively impacting service delivery.

“Due to staff shortages, the current available staff is physically exhausted and on the brink of burning out.“

Simelane said they were fighting to at least reach a staff complement of 60% in all hospitals to ensure service delivery was not affected, warning that without this, the public might continue receiving bad service. She said in light of the staff shortages, the department had written to the Cabinet requesting to absorb 12 000 workers who were hired last year in a bid to contain the Covid19 outbreak.

“When we employed them last year, they were given a contract of six months, which was extended for another three months in December. But in March, I went back to the Cabinet and indicated that it looked like we might be getting a third wave of Covid-19. I made a request that these contracts be extended for another six months, so we will have the staff until September.

“We have (since) decided as a department that we do need these workers; they have contributed a lot to the fight that we had been faced with. Our request to the Cabinet is that we absorb these 12 000-plus workers to be part of our own workforce,” Simelane said.

To afford them, the department would have to find funds internally, including cutting spending on other projects. “We say if we need 10 cleaners, can we at least get six of those? We cannot run facilities the way we run them; we will continue to have the complaints that we have now. Our nurses are exhausted and burnt out.”

Mazwi Ngubane, National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union leader in the Harry Gwala region, said the unions had pushed for the contract workers to be employed permanently on account of the shortages.

“The staff are burning out. A single nurse is doing work that should be done by five people. Many have lost people they worked with. A hospital such as Edendale has lost many nurses, and although many have recovered from the illness, emotionally and mentally they are also down,” Ngubane said.

Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said the impact of shortages was reflected in patients’ claims against the department. “If you analyse them, you see that many of these things could have been avoided if there were enough staff,” he said.

THE MERCURY

Share this article: