Nurses in personal protective equipment (PPE) in the isolation ward of the Kensington Home for the Aged. File Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).
Nurses in personal protective equipment (PPE) in the isolation ward of the Kensington Home for the Aged. File Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

KZN unrest: Nehawu appeals for protection for healthcare workers

By Xolile Bhengu Time of article published Jul 12, 2021

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DURBAN – The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) in KwaZulu-Natal said it supported the call by the provincial health department for healthcare workers to be protected amid the unrest, violence and looting in the province.

Nehawu provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu said: “We are concerned with the high number of reports from our members on the ground of their private unmarked vehicles being attacked during the protests.

“We suggest that health workers should be transported from home with high level security to ensure they are not harmed.”

The union was commenting after KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane urged the public to protect and enable health-care professionals to get to work.

Simelane said nurses, doctors and ambulance operators needed to be allowed to continue with the critical task of saving people’s lives.

The statement from the provincial department was issued as health-care facilities across the province were said to be buckling under the pressure of widespread community protests which have resulted in the blockading of key arterial routes, making public mobility difficult.

A number of hospitals, community health centres and clinics across KwaZulu-Natal have been operating on skeletal staff, with many nurses, doctors, allied health workers and support staff unable to report for work due to the blockades, as well as lack of public transport. Many who were working the night shift last night also could not go home.

Patients who were due to undergo elective surgery and those with minor ailments have been advised not to come to hospitals until the situation returns to normal. It said in some instances, vehicles were barred from delivering much-needed oxygen that was intended for use by patients battling Covid-19 and other ailments. Adding to that, the protests have all but put a stop to the province’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

In Howick, an ambulance was torched last night, while another was attacked with rocks in Mariannhill.

The unrest has also affected the functioning of the department’s key 24-hour provincial health operations centre, which serves as a link to the public. However, the public can still contact the department by calling 031 480 3718.

Simelane said: “As the government does its best to deal with this situation, we are pleading with each and every individual to create a situation where health-care workers are not impeded from getting to work.

“Those who are protesting need to realise that by blocking health workers or ambulances from doing their job, they could be placing the lives of their own relatives in jeopardy.

“There are scores of people in our hospitals who are fighting for their lives, who need to be attended to by our doctors and nurses as a matter of urgency. Some are in critical condition, in ICU, while others are in labour and need to go into theatre. We really cannot afford a situation where lives are lost just because our health-care workers cannot get to work,” she said.


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