Home South African No indication if 60,000 Covid health workers will be retained

No indication if 60,000 Covid health workers will be retained

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Although the Department of Health has employed more than 60,000 health care workers since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, provinces have not indicated how many of them would be retained in the public service

File picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

THE DEPARTMENT of Health has employed more than 60,000 health care workers since the start of Covid-19 but provinces have not revealed how many would be kept on.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize was responding to questions from ANC MP Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who had asked about the impact of the pandemic on human resources in the health system since the first positive case was reported in the country.

Dhlomo, the chairperson of the health portfolio committee, also enquired about the number of categories of health care workers who were employed. This ranged from doctors, nurses, community health workers and foreign national health professionals.

He wanted to know the number of health care staff who will be retained after the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his written response, Mkhize said the impact of the pandemic on human resources in health since the first positive case in the country had been enormous.

“As of October 31, 2020, there were 35,145 confirmed (Covid-19) cases of health workers in the public sector of which 25% were in the Eastern Cape, followed by 24% in Gauteng and 18% in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

Mkhize also said 339 public sector health workers had died in hospital.

“Of these 26% were from Eastern Cape, 24% from KwaZulu-Natal and 15% from Gauteng.”

Mkhize said they had developed a strategy to protect the health and safety of health workers in the face of the pandemic.

He said 2,926 South African doctors had been appointed from March up until October last year.

These included 1,863 medical officers, 233 community service doctors, 276 interns, 352 medical specialists and 185 registrars, among others.

Mkhize said 14,232 South African nurses were appointed during that period.

They included 5,901 professional nurses, 4,284 staff nurses, 3,574 nursing assistants and other categories of nurses.

The minister said 31,302 South African community health workers and 16,995 health care professionals were also hired.

He added that 797 foreign national health care and related professionals were employed from March up until October.

Mkhize would not say how many of the health care workers would be retained in the public service.

“At the time of reporting, the provinces were not in a position to indicate the numbers of health care workers who will be retained as that (number) is reliant on the service delivery needs and availability of budget,” he said.

Briefing the health portfolio committee last week, Mkhize said 40 million people would be inoculated over a 12-month period.

He said it was expected that 316,000 vaccinations a day would be administered with each vaccinator set to vaccinate 50 people a day.

About 6,300 full-time staff would be needed for this.

Additional vaccinators could be recruited from clinical associates, post-community service nurses and doctors, contract nurses, final-year medical and nursing students and other cadres, he said.