The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] in the North West province notes the announcement about a worker who has been infected with the corona virus. The announcement was made by the Health MEC, Hon. Madoda Sambatha, through a press statement issued earlier today.
The Staff nurse is attached at the Promosa Community Health Centre in Potchefstroom. We welcome the swift action taken by the MEC to solve the matter including the immediate closure of the facility to allow an urgent decontamination process and the deployment of a mobile clinic to ensure access and continued service delivery until the decontamination of the facility has been concluded. We hope the department will move with speed to perform contact tracing so as to isolate those who have been in contact with the infected worker.
As NEHAWU in the province, we believe the infection of one worker is one too many. The infection of healthcare workers puts more strain to our healthcare facilities considering that we have always struggled with understaffing in the healthcare sector. Loss of frontline workers and closure of hospitals limits the number of beds needed to treat patients and the adequate number of workers needed for healthcare facilities to function.
NEHAWU has on numerous occasions pointed out to the Department of Health that failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act [OHS] will result in the infection of workers and a rapid spread of the virus in the province.
In the last meeting of the COVID-19 Provincial Steering Committee, NEHAWU sharply raised its frustration with the department on the lack of Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs] for frontline workers and the non-compliance with the OHS Act. The department could not explain if their stock of PPEs corresponded with the number of workers employed by the department. After the meeting it was agreed that the employer would provide factual information on the issue of compliance.
However, that never took place and the department has been evasive in bringing forth the requested information. These meetings are meant to identify areas of vulnerability and immediately put measures in place to protect workers. In this regard, we are not happy with how the department has been handling the issue of the protection of workers. We call on both the MEC and the administrator to hold accountable those who gamble with the lives of our members and workers.
While waiting for the follow-up meeting to take place, the department arrogantly issued a directive that all workers must report back to work without a guarantee that workers will be safe. NEHAWU opposed the directive and demanded a compliance report from the department that was to be presented in a meeting scheduled for today. However, the meeting was postponed at the 11th hour and the department continues to insist that workers must return to work without attending to issues of compliance with the OHS Act.
Before workers return to work we demand the following from the employer without fail:
- Continuous screening of workers
- Training of workers in terms of the OHS COVID-19 regulations
- Provision of Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs]
- Social distancing
- Psychotherapy support
- Disinfection of workplaces and adherence to the regulations of COVID-19.
NEHAWU will not allow any reckless endangerment of its members and we will use every resource available at our disposal to defend our members from intransigent employers. In this regard, NEHAWU advices its members and workers not to work when they feel that their lives are in danger. Moreover, we call on the Department of Employment and Labour to conduct regular inspections in all healthcare facilities in the province to ascertain the levels of compliance and enforce the protection of workers.
NEHAWU will write to the MEC to demand immediate punitive measures against officials who gamble with the lives of its members and workers.
Issued by NEHAWU North West Secretariat Office: For more information, please contact: Patrick Makhafane (NEHAWU North West Provincial Secretary) at 018 381 4585 – 082 455 2486 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org