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Mkhize calls for probe into claims health workers contracting Covid as a result of limited PPEs

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Mkhize said the department noted with concern increasing allegations of health workers contracting Covid-19 in the line of duty.

Picture: Sophia Sandurskay/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has ordered an investigation into allegations of health workers contracting Covid-19 in the line of duty as a result of limited personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mkhize’s announcement comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) will be sending in 43 senior experts to advise on strategies and provide input on decisions the department has taken thus far.

Mkhize said the department noted with concern increasing allegations of health workers contracting Covid-19 in the line of duty.

“We have even received reports that some may be dying after being infected due to the lack of sufficient PPE or due to sufficient PPE not being provided and/or failure or neglect by management to adhere to prescribed workplace safety protocols. We want to outrightly state that this cannot be tolerated,” Mkhize said.

A team led by Professor Taole Mokoena, together with other medical, nursing and legal professionals, will provide a report in 14 days.

Health workers account for 5% of all Covid-19 cases, with 24 104 being infected and 181 deaths recorded.

Globally, health workers account for 10% of infections.

Mkhize also announced that there had been reduced hospital admissions and Persons Under Investigation presenting in health facilities; that the country had not breached hospital capacity; and that despite the surge, it had not seen a significant increase in deaths.

“Developments in treatment have also reduced the mortality rate of those admitted to ICU with Covid-19 illnesses.

“Studies show that ICU mortality has been reduced by about 25% since the introduction of dexamethasone on June 16, and that ICU survival rates showed dramatic improvement to about 30-40%.”

The 43 WHO experts are from various fields, including epidemiologists and public health experts, Mkhize said.

“Dr Mike Ryan will lead the team from Geneva, and will provide us with constant advice while analysing our strategies, including the decision we have taken as the Department of Health in our Covid-19 response.”

The team will also include renowned specialists such as Dr David Heymann, who is a seasoned infectious disease epidemiologist and public health expert.

“We see this as a great opportunity, not only to improve our health strategies during this pandemic but also to accelerate our path towards health-care reform.

“The first 17 experts will touch down on South African soil today and will complete a period of quarantine and initiation before being deployed within the department and across various provinces.”

Mkhize said South Africa now had more than 500 000 Covid-19 cases, and more than 300 deaths had been reported in a 24-hour period, but he added that “despite the surge we have not seen a significant increase in deaths”.

On Wednesday, the Western Cape confirmed it had 96 446 Covid-19 cases, of which 9 652 were active.

The death toll in the province stood at 3 265, while 83 529 people had recovered.