Covid-19 tasks have environmental health workers under pressure in Tshwane
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Pretoria - Shortages of environmental health practitioners in the City of Tshwane have a negative impact on their ability to conduct health inspections in government buildings as part of their function.
There have been at least 67 environmental health practitioners employed by the City and they were over-stretched because of the multiple tasks they were expected to perform. Health MMC Sakkie du Plooy said that ideally one practitioner was expected to cater for the needs of at least 5 000 residents. As things stood, one practitioner was responsible for 45 000 people.
The outbreak of Covid-19, he said, impacted negatively on their work to regularly inspect health conditions in government buildings. “We simply cannot get to do that now because at this time we are focusing on Covid-19.”
Work assigned to environmental health practitioners during the pandemic included tracing people who had come into contact with Covid-19 positive patients.
Du Plooy said: “We are understaffed and this is one of our priorities because environmental health goes with ensuring the prevention of disasters.”
He lauded the practitioners for their hard work, especially for ensuring compliance by businesses with Covid-19 regulations. The City had appointed temporary workers to boost its capacity during the pandemic and was appointing more permanent workers.
While doing random checks at different business outlets, they made sure that food was in good condition before being sold to the public. “So many things can go wrong if they can't monitor health around food.”
They also had to ensure residents had access to clean drinkable water.
“For example, somebody called me and said water in Bronkhortspruit does not seem to be healthy so we sent them out there to test the water supply,” Du Plooy said.
They also attend to frequent complaints by City residents regarding noise pollution.
“And you know who is making the biggest noise?” Before lockdown prevented church services, he said, many of the complaints, especially in Sunnyside, were about disruptive services.