According to Samwu, several clinics in eThekwini Municipality are unsafe, struggling to manage the spread of Covid-19 and are running extremely low on medical supplies. Picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
According to Samwu, several clinics in eThekwini Municipality are unsafe, struggling to manage the spread of Covid-19 and are running extremely low on medical supplies. Picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Union highlights health sector struggles as eThekwini clinics buckle under Covid-19 pressure

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Aug 24, 2020

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Durban - Several clinics in eThekwini Municipality are unsafe, struggling to manage the spread of Covid-19 and are running extremely low on medical supplies.

This is according to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) in a letter to acting city manager, Sipho Cele.

The union said it had been inundated with complaints from its members regarding the poor response to Covid-19-related issues, particularly at the Health Unit.

Allegations have also been made that infighting among the unit’s senior managers had hobbled the procurement process, leading to the current crisis.

In the letter, Samwu said there was a lack of commitment at unit level to address the problem, pointing at the number of clinics that were besieged with problems.

At the Athlone Park clinic, the union said, there were allegations that close contacts were not being isolated or quarantined. Also, that in all the city’s clinics disinfection was not properly practised. The union also alleged that there was a shortage of cleaning materials like soap.

It was also revealed that at Glen Earl clinic, there was a shortage of protective personal equipment and isolation gowns, while at the Verulam, Clare Estate and Mpola clinics there was a high rate of infections.

“We do not have to remind you that the employer has the responsibility to ensure that the workplace is safe and free of hazards. The Health Unit should lead by example and we are not expecting such complaints to be associated with this unit.

“What is more disturbing is that employees, who are our colleagues, parents, husbands and wives are not only contracting this deadly virus, but they are dying. Samwu demands that the employer act responsibly, in order to display commitment to save the lives of employees.

“We demand a response on remedial actions. We also demand that the employer at all levels, in time, attend and respond to issues raised by the union leadership, as we represent workers’ grievances. We take serious exception when the union is deliberately ignored.”

Samwu regional secretary, Xolani Dube, was not immediately available for comment yesterday.

A source within Samwu said the situation was dire.

“The issue here is that clinics could close because officials don’t want to approve procurement, we don’t know why, but whoever is responsible is holding the entire city to ransom. More than 60 clinics risk closing because of internal fights.”

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela urged all the unions to continue engaging with the city.

“All our shareholders should be mindful of the fact that we are working under very abnormal circumstances. Despite the odds stacked against us, the city has pulled out all the stops to ensure that all its buildings and facilities are compliant with the regulations of Covid-19.

“Where our important stakeholders in the form of Samwu feel that there are challenges experienced by our employees, let us engage. We are appealing to them to consider dialogue,” he said.

The Mercury

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