Union says that fact-finding site visits to selected public health care facilities by its officials had found generalised shortages of personal protective equipment
THE NATIONAL Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Tuesday threatened a series of protest actions next month to highlight the dangers faced by health workers in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Nehawu said that fact-finding site visits to selected public health care facilities by its officials had found generalised shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), four months after the union was told by government that there were enough in stock and it was undertaking additional procurement.
“Almost all managers did not have an idea as to how long these PPEs would last and had no plan in place to avoid stock depletions,” the union said.
“In fact, in an institution like Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, our team found that workers had to resort to using refuse bags to protect themselves.”
The union pointed out that since the announcement of the first Covid-19 infection in South Africa in early March, it has been at the forefront in highlighting the lack of sufficient protection for its members in general and health care workers in particular.
In all institutions visited by its officials, there was a general non-compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it said.
“In some places, when a worker tested positive for Covid-19, managers would refuse to carry out fumigation to disinfect the affected institution, endangering other workers and patients.
“We have a number of members, especially shop stewards, that have been victimised in one form or another just because they have raised questions about the lack of PPEs, the absence of daily screening of health care workers and the refusal by managers to allow workers to go into self-isolation if they reasonably suspect that they have been exposed,” the union added.
It said that recent statistics from the Department of Health showed that as of July 23, about 13 174 health workers, the majority of them Nehawu members, were infected with the coronavirus, with 107 having lost their lives.
“These statistics paint a very bleak picture and prompted the national union to adopt a national programme of action that will be implemented to protect all members in all sectors it organises,” said Nehawu.
On Friday, August 21, it said, all its members across South Africa would flock to their administration offices to apply for a day’s leave, followed by lunch-time pickets across all sectors the next Monday to Thursday.
On Friday, August 28, all workers across all sectors “shall lockdown themselves at home and not go to work”, the union added.
It threatened another complete withdrawal of labour in all sectors on September 10 if there was still no favourable response to its demands.
– African News Agency (ANA)