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Caregivers “risking their lives without compensation”

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The workers are aggrieved that they are risking their lives by conducting Covid-19 screenings on the borders of the Northern Cape without compensation.

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COMMUNITY health workers (CHWs) are aggrieved that they are risking their lives by conducting Covid-19 screenings on the borders of the Northern Cape without compensation.

The CHWs, who are home-based caregivers employed at various clinics in Kimberley, stated that they were compelled to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week without any overtime pay.

“We are expected to work from 6pm until 6am at roadblocks on the N8 and N1 between Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Johannesburg. We are exposed to the coronavirus while conducting screenings and are exposing our families to possible infection,” the workers said.

The provincial organiser of the SA Liberating Public Servants Workers Union (Salipswu), Thapelo Thole, said that the caregivers were employed at the Beaconsfield, Greenpoint and Kimberley City clinics.

“Workers are forced to abandon their patients and are instead made to work at provincial roadblocks. They should be entitled to danger allowances because they could be bitten by snakes or attacked in the dark while screening motorists. We do not even know if they are provided with refreshments during their shifts,” said Thole.

He also indicated that 50 CHWs had not received minimum wage increases of R133 per month.

“The total of R399 should have been backdated for the past three months but is still outstanding. The health districts have not been submitting invoices in time.”

Thole stated that three caregivers employed at the Bankhara/Bodulong Clinic in Kuruman had tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

“The clinic was never closed or disinfected after a nurse and a caregiver tested positive last week. Health facilities are not taking the necessary precautions to prevent Covid-19 infections,” he said.

Thole added that another caregiver at the Boichoko Clinic in Postmasburg had tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

“All caregivers were told to test and return to work the next day although the clinic was never closed or decontaminated,” he claimed.

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo apologised for the delay in payment owed to some community health workers.

“This was as a result of data capturing errors on the payment system. This has been corrected and all those affected will receive payment early next week,” said Mxekezo on Thursday.

She stated that the department was currently verifying which CHWs were still owed their stipends.

“Overtime pay will be paid according to the overtime policy framework,” Mxekezo added.