Overcrowding, infected staff & shortages: Nehawu details its hospital ‘fact-finding’ results

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha says the union has raised concerns about the inadequate supply of PPE and sanitisers, the lack of ventilators and quarantine beds, and the provision of transportation and catering for all critical workers during lockdown.
Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha says the union has raised concerns about the inadequate supply of PPE and sanitisers, the lack of ventilators and quarantine beds, and the provision of transportation and catering for all critical workers during lockdown.
Image: COSATU VIA TWITTER

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) on Tuesday briefed the media on what it said was a fact-finding mission on the state's readiness to confront Covid-19 in hospitals.

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said the site visits were done in response to complaints from union members about their working conditions.

Saphetha explained the findings and detailed recommendations which would help improve conditions.

Here are quotes from the union's site visits:

PPE provisions

“In almost all health-care institutions that were visited, our teams found there were generalised shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) four months after the union was told by government there was enough PPE in stock, and that it was undertaking additional procurement to replenish what was in the warehouses.”

Cleaning staff 

“In some institutions, cleaning staff and porters were left unprotected because of the misconception that PPE is only for clinical staff. They regularly have to clear contaminated areas.”

Staff shortages

“In all public institutions visited by our teams the shortage of staff was one of the primary factors raised, not only by workers, but also by some managers. These shortages do not just involve categories such as specialist doctors, allied professionals and nurses, but all non-clinical staff as well.”

Jobs threatened

“Two members of Nehawu were given final written warnings by management for refusing to perform their duties without PPE at the Tygerberg Hospital.

“In the Western Cape, managers have rejected reports about infections in the workplace from workers, and would even go as far as to compel workers who have tested positive for Covid-19 to work as long as they did not have or present symptoms.”

Overcrowding at Dora Nginza Hospital

“Our team found an unfolding disaster in the maternity ward at Dora Nginza Hospital. The hospital is supposed to work with about seven feeder clinics, three of which were closed. These resulted in overcrowding at the hospital, which exposed already ailing people to the danger of Covid-19.”

Infected workers

“Infected workers may only return to work on condition they have completed the mandatory 10 days of self-isolation and strictly adhere to personal hygiene, wearing of masks and social distancing. Managers at the institutions must closely monitor symptoms of such workers returning to work.”


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