Calls for Gauteng government to speed up pace of Covid-19 vaccinations
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Pretoria - Nursing organisations have called on the government and the Gauteng Health Department to speed up the rate of vaccinations of healthcare workers to enable them to handle the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic decimating the province currently.
While the Gauteng provincial government has surged forward with its endeavour to vaccinate elderly persons over 60 years of age, as well as successfully kicking off the 10-day vaccination programme for teachers, the organisations said they were dismayed at the slow rate and complacency shown at vaccinating the country’s foot soldiers.
On June 24 Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced that the government would begin opening up Covid-19 vaccine registrations to people under 60.
Speaking during the provincial budgetary address, Makhura said as of next week the government would start with the registration and vaccination of 50-59-year-olds, with the registration process to then be opened up to people in their forties.
Makhura said this would then be followed by vaccinations for members of law-enforcement officials expected to commence as on July 1.
Zola Saphetha, general-secretary for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said while they were happy that vaccination programmes were continuing for the rest of society, they were unhappy that on the record the government had only vaccinated roughly 51% of healthcare workers in the province.
Saphetha said it was upsetting and worrying for them as a union that workers were expected to administer vaccines to the elderly and the rest of the population while a large portion of them were yet to be vaccinated.
He said what made things equally distressing was the fact that the elderly were high-risk, and workers were still contending with the lack of adequate personal protective equipment, bed shortages and enough oxygen tanks for the wards.
Saphetha said although unions were promised a sit-down to discuss some of these issues with the Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Sandile Buthelezi the Director-General for health two weeks ago, such a gathering was yet to take place.
“Covid-19 doesn’t move, it’s people who move, but the government expects the elderly to have money to transport themselves to these vaccination sites and that is very dangerous as that’s how the virus thrives. Now all these people need nurses yet there are not enough.
“We suggested that community healthcare workers be absorbed and used as they often go out into these communities and in so doing ease up the pressure on healthcare workers but our suggestions have all but been ignored by them.”
Saphetha said it was frustrating that the country was continually caught being complacent with each wave of the pandemic as it appeared that the government was too preoccupied with creating programmes in order to loot from the public purse.
“There are not enough beds, oxygen tanks, or even staff so the government must be willing to listen and recognise that health is not sectoral matter it’s a societal matter so every sector needs to be brought along as part of the solution. We can’t continue with a ratio of only two nurses per ward instead of the seven nurses required.”
Bongani Mazibuko, Gauteng provincial secretary for the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, said even though they were pleased that a couple more healthcare practitioners had been vaccinated in recent weeks, they remained displeased with the rate of vaccinations.
Mazibuko said the rate of vaccinations for health workers was simply “unacceptable” taking into consideration that their programme was supposed to have been completed at phase two with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
He said Tshwane’s public hospitals were in no better state for the third wave as there were already chronic staff and bed shortages being witnessed.
Additionally, Mazibuko said they were concerned that many people in the city did not know they could get vaccinated at the Weskoppies Psychiatric hospital.
“It’s becoming more and more evident that people are failing to abide by the restrictions put in place to protect them so we can only hope as a sector that more restrictions are introduced by the president before things get out of control.
“I don’t wish to be the president because he has the difficult task of balancing the need to get the economy going and protect livelihoods or risk having the entire health system collapsing.”