PRETORIA – The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) welcomes the new restrictions and a pause on the sale of alcohol countrywide that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last night in response to the spike in the number of infections countrywide and especially in Gauteng, although we could have wished for more elaborate details on the healthcare system’s level of preparedness for the third wave that is proving to be more stronger than the first two waves.
What has been obvious from early days of the resurgence, however, is that both the existing non-pharmaceutical measures and policing of compliance to such has not been effective. And this is what has brought the country to the current high levels of infections.
Given the high numbers of daily infections, stricter restrictions and people’s economic suffering were the only easy targets that the government would opt for in order to stop the rapid spread of infections.
DENOSA welcomes the limits on travels in and out of Gauteng for leisure purposes, given the strain the new infections are proving to have on the healthcare system in the province. The risk with Gauteng as the economic hub of the country is that the spread of infections will spiral out to other provinces if no tight restrictions are imposed in the absence of an effective vaccination programme.
DENOSA would have liked more details and commitments of the government as part of its preparations of its healthcare system for the third wave, and particularly on the question of field hospitals as most beds are taken by people under investigation. But because field hospitals require healthcare workers, which the government is not showing any willingness to invest in, the idea of recommissioning field hospitals is not featuring prominently. Due to high stress levels and depression that healthcare workers suffer as a result of the resurgence, the government must also prioritize the strengthening of its Employee Wellness Programmes in the workplace to assist staff.
It is disappointing that Gauteng is still managing the Covid-19 pandemic at the expense of other healthcare services to patients. Now, patients who were due to undergo elective procedures are made to wait longer once more so that some 800 beds could be saved to accommodate COVID-19 admissions. Globally, this has been the major problem and compromise to comprehensive healthcare services where, according to the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Report, over 28 million elective procedures had to be cancelled over the last year due to Covid-19 pressures.
The report also found that COVID-19 has resulted in severe disruption of healthcare services in other various critical areas, namely:
– About 70% reduction in community routine vaccination;
– 69% reduction in Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) service.
– 61% reduction in treatment for mental health disorders;
– 55% reduction in cancer diagnosis and treatment;
– 46% reduction in malaria diagnosis and treatment;
– 42% reduction in TB detection and treatment; and
– 28 million routine surgeries cancelled.
These delays will come back to haunt the Department of Health and, unfortunately, healthcare workers will be expected to deliver miracles once again when the above neglected cases reach a boiling point to communities and the economy.
DENOSA believes it is embarrassing that it had to take the Solidarity Fund to invest in the country’s healthcare system, particularly in staff augmentation, when this should ordinarily be the daily responsibility of the government of the day to communities. While the funding for healthcare workers is appreciated, DENOSA is not convinced that this will be enough to deal adequately with the COVID-19 crisis and its demands.
The slow pace of the country’s vaccination programme was always going to be too costly, because those who would have been vaccinated (the elderly, healthcare workers and essential service workers) would have developed immunity by now if it was progressing well. In the case of the vulnerable, this would be saving the healthcare system because not too many of them would be needing to be admitted to healthcare facilities. But alas! This is not the case, and the healthcare system and healthcare workers have to bear the brunt of this mishap and fumbling.
The President’s address proved that, indeed, there are still too many hills to climb.
But given the current rate of infections that the country is recording, DENOSA believes it is better to suffer short-term discomfort in the form of restrictions than to endure long-term suffering.
Issued by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA).
For more information, contact:
Cassim Lekhoathi, DENOSA Acting General Secretary.
Mobile: 082 328 9671
Simon Hlungwani, DENOSA President.Mobile: 082 328 9635