Picture: Reuters
Picture: Reuters

Nursing union sheds light on the plight of front-line workers

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published Jan 12, 2021

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DURBAN - GROSS staff shortages, inadequate and poor personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of psychological support for staff and overcrowding are just some of the issues faced by the country's front-line workers as they treat those infected by the coronavirus.

Nursing union the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said they were disappointed by the Department of Health's response to the second wave of Covid-19 in the province.

Denosa KZN provincial secretary, Mandla Shabangu, said the department had been waiting for the second wave and reassuring the public that they were ready, however, they were not.

"We requested a resurgence plan and a meeting to discuss the plan and give input before the resurgence. To date we have not received that plan. We believe it is irresponsible of the department not to have a plan for such a fatal wave and we condemn it vehemently," he said.

Shabangu said during a visit to different institutions, members informed them of their plight. He said staff were also forced to sign their normal sick leave for Covid. According to Shabangu, some staff were forced to re-use their masks.

He said the union has come up with several recommendations which he hoped would be implemented at health-care facilities.

"The department needs to urgently fill vacant posts caused by deaths due to Covid-19 and other diseases, before the end of March 2021, while the posts are still funded. There also needs to be an establishment of a relief pool of staff in all districts to assist when nurses go for isolation or quarantine. There needs to be an urgent programme set up to provide psychological support to staff. We are calling on the department to issue full PPE to all staff irrespective of whether they are in a Covid ward or not – to minimise transmissions," he said.

Shabangu added that the department needs to urgently implement national guidelines on vulnerable employees by ensuring that all institutions have functional Risk Assessment Committees.

"We also want the department to refurbish staff tea rooms to allow for social distancing to minimise cross infection and to withdraw the HRM circular 41 of 2020 on Covid leave to allow staff to get special leave for Covid-19 as per DPSA circular 7 of 2020," he said.

He said the union was of the view that if the department can implement the recommendations, they will be able to deal successfully with the pandemic and save lives.

He urged members to report irresponsible and illegal orders to shop stewards. Shabangu said members have been advised not to start work if there is no PPE or staff to assist them.

On Monday, KZN MEC for Health, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, praised health-care workers for continuing the fight against Covid.

"We sincerely appreciate the profoundly good work that is being done by our tireless front-line workers, and staff across the board, to help the province square up to this pandemic," she said.

Simelane-Zulu added that as a department, they remained commited to doing their best.

"We are doing our best to render the best possible level of health care to the public under prevailing conditions, to attend to challenges when they arise and act speedily and decisively to address them, and provide our foot soldiers with all the protection and other assistance that they may need," the MEC said.


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