Covid-19 Frontline Stories: My husband is helping SA fight the pandemic and is not getting paid
South Africa’s hospitals are filling with the sick fighting the Covid-19 virus as the second wave has led to more than a million infections and over 26 000 deaths. This has had an untold toll on our frontline workers and their families, many of whom are now coming forward with their stories. This is one of them.
OPINION - The beginning of March, 2020 in South Africa appeared like a gushed wind with uncertainties looming around.
The coronavirus has been discovered in the country, the spread rate unknown and the frontline workers gearing up to put their all into work to save the populace.
Amongst the frontline workers, are the supernumerary registrars who do the same work as registrars and same overtime as those employed by the South African government without being paid.
Instead, this supernumerary pays every form of fees (foreign levies and tuition fees) to their attached institutional affiliation while giving in their all to serve the Republic of South Africa.
With over 35 000 health care workers infected with Covid-19 and over 338 health workers dead as of November 16, 2020, the fear of what might happen if my husband who is a supernumerary or other supernumerary registrar contract it is worrying.
For someone like my husband who is self-sponsored, just as many other supernumerary registrars, the question of what happens if there is a fatality from Covid-19, who takes the fall is a question unanswered.
Is it the South African Government where the supernumerary gives his/her all to the service for humanity or the home country who is not responsible for sending such fellow over and is not aware as to what goes on in the republic?
Every day I sleep with fear, fear for my husband, fear for my kids, fear for myself…nothing must happen to us. We cannot just be infected. Is it the shoddy medical cover one does with a lot of benefit restrictions under the guise “student cover” that would come through or we are just left thronged out in a country where one gives it all.
Many supernumeraries already face untold financial hardship. Now with Covid-19, the strain has doubled financially, mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Unlike their South African counterparts, they do not enjoy the same occupational compensation and protection, as they are not regarded as employees.
Yet, these ones are not seen as students.
In a hierarchical structure, they are next after consultants and seen as higher than medical officers.
Their medical oath when they started practicing medicine has proven to be beyond their country of origin.
Although, while some universities agreed to allow supernumeraries to return to their home country due to the complexities surrounding Covid-19, some institutions responded dreadfully by avowing there not to be an academic place upon their return, leaving these doctors with difficult decisions regarding their academic future and the investments they have already made into their specialization within the republic.
No doubt, one of the considerations for given positions into supernumerary posts is attesting to not be paid and not taking registrar posts.
However, this supernumerary continually offers relief to the constrained health system through various unpaid hospital postings. While there are no legal obligations meted to these supra registrars(who are not seen as supernumerary registrars in the hospitals but well-qualified doctors), it is HUMANE that measures are put in place to support these supernumerary registrars financially and medically during this extraordinary time, as their safety and wellbeing will assist the South African healthcare system.
It is already draining and sacrificial for wives, husbands, and kids whose partners or parents are in the program.
A cumbersome amount was invested in bringing Cuban doctors to South Africa to assist during the pandemic while worthy individuals are putting in their all without financial support or health insurance for them and their families.
Like other countries such as France, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the rest, it won’t be bad if these unsung heroes are appreciated and recognized. Just like the popular saying, “ to whom much is given; much is expected”.
The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.
Are you a frontline worker or related to a frontline worker and would like your experience published on IOL? If so please share your story with us by emailing [email protected]