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Concern over NC’s capacity to roll out phase 2 of vaccination programme

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Portfolio committee on health worried about the shortage of nurses in the Northern Cape

File picture: AFP

THE PORTFOLIO committee on health is worried that capacity challenges at public health facilities in the Northern Cape may affect the roll-out of phase 2 of the Covid-19 vaccination programme that starts on Monday.

The portfolio committee visited Seoding Clinic in Kuruman on Friday and the medical depot in Kimberley as well as the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital on Saturday to assess the state of readiness in the Province.

The chairperson of the portfolio committee on health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, was perturbed by the shortage of nurses in the Province.

“The Province reported that they have just about 2,400 nurses to serve the entire Province. While we welcome the assurance that this represents a net increase compared to 1,700 nurses that were employed last year, we are concerned that this might negatively impact the ability to effectively implement the clearly-planned vaccination programme,” said Dhlomo.

He added that the committee wanted clarity over the availability of vaccines and storage facilities in far-flung and rural areas that did not have adequate refrigeration capacity.

Dhlomo pointed out that four of the five districts in the Province were currently led by acting district directors who would have to lead the implementation of the roll-out of the vaccination programme.

“The committee has welcomed the commitment by the private sector for the provision of its health care facilities for the purposes of the roll-out of the programme in the Province. The committee believes that this will mitigate any challenge of shortages of public health care facilities that might arise in the Province.

“The committee commends a plan for an integrated communications system to ensure that facilities with low uptake of vaccines will share their stock with facilities in close proximity to them with higher uptake to ensure the vaccination of a maximum number of people.”

He welcomed the assurance by the provincial Department of Health that it had requested major network operators to assist in the registration of poor people who may not have access to smartphones or data to register on the electronic vaccination system.

“There has been an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 infections in the Province, which is reported to be increasing at a rate of 67 percent per week. Of major concern is the Frances Baard District, which accounts for the largest share of increases, with the district registering 50 percent of the new cases.”

Dhlomo was also alarmed at the information provided that the upsurge was due to non-adherence to Covid-19 regulations that were linked to workplaces, funerals and other social gatherings.

“We urge the people of the Province to work together with government to stop the spread of the virus by adhering to health protocols,” he said.