Eastern Cape premier prioritises health-care sector in virus fight

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane says the province must do all it can to protect the health system from collapsing
SHARPENING FOCUS: Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane says the province must do all it can to protect the health system from collapsing

In response to the growing number of health-care workers testing positive for Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape, the provincial government has embarked on a drive to recruit more doctors and nurses.

This is according to Premier Oscar Mabuyane who, together with the provincial command council,  addressed the media in Bhisho on Tuesday about the work being done to fight the pandemic.

“Standard operating procedures are in place and there is constant contact with critical stakeholders to ensure we do everything to protect front-line workers who are critical in the fight against the pandemic.

“We have to do everything we can do to protect the health system from collapsing,” he said.

To date, 24 health workers had died from the virus while more than 800 had tested positive, he said.

Mabuyane said to ensure the province was prepared for the likely surge in infections, the government was building one field hospital for every district and metro area, with 500 beds per hospital.

“This will give us a combined total of 4,000 beds throughout the province.

“These are medical beds with all the medical equipment required to save lives, and we have recruited an additional 1,000 nurses and over 5,000 community health workers,” Mabuyane said.

He said the provincial government remained focused on investing in health services, facilities and sustainable infrastructure in a bid to stop the virus from spreading, and had awarded 42 contracts worth R222.8m to  Eastern Cape contractors for the refurbishment of 34 health facilities across the province.

This had created 500 work opportunities, a number the premier said would increase.

“These contracts are now at various stages of implementation with 20 already completed, 12 to be completed by end of July and the completion of the remaining 10 earmarked for end of August.”

The premier also touched on the challenges facing health-care workers, including a shortage of oxygen machines, which he said was a national crisis.

Mabuyane also touched on the maternity ward crisis at Dora Nginza Hospital and said this was worsened by the closure of feeder clinics because of Covid-19 cases.

The department of health would provide additional nurses and general workers for the Uitenhage Hospital and Motherwell maternity services.

Also briefing the media in Bhisho was health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, who said the issue of health-care workers who kept getting infected was alarming, and suggested a need for a strategy that augmented staff structures without decreasing the workforce.

Education MEC Fundile Gade said there was a need nationally for a discussion about reconsidering the phasing in of other school grades that were scheduled to reopen in July.

“It is so unfortunate that we have registered 26 deaths as a sector.

The majority of them are educators with underlying medical conditions and also non-teaching staff,” Gade said.

He said infections in schools and education institutions would likely rise and that more deaths were expected.

He said it was more strategic to contain and retain the grades already phased in.

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