In a bid to ensure continuous engagement with all stakeholders critical to the fight against Covid-19, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has given a directive for occupational health and safety committees to be created at a provincial, district and local hospital level.
This was according to a statement issued on Wednesday by the Department of Health (DoH) following the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union’s (Nehawu’s) announcement that it planned to protest the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers.
The DoH said in a statement on Wednesday that constructive engagements between management and unions has always been encouraged to create teamwork in the fight against Covid-19.
“The Department of Health recognises the critical role to be played by labour in representing their members views during this period. We reiterate our commitment that no health worker should be exposed to a work environment where they have not been provided with sufficient PPE. We will continue to provide as much support as we can in various areas affecting our health workers,” it said.
The department pointed out that in June a Multi-Sectoral Ministerial Advisory Committee (Mac) was launched, which organised labour was part of. In July Mkhize had requested a labour work stream by the committee to work on a fact finding exercise focusing on issues affecting health workers with specific focus on the PPE requirements.
Mkhize also requested that the labour work stream identify specific facilities with shortages so that the DoH could intervene.
“This exercise is ongoing and the Minister will now not only rely on reports from the provincial departments of health to understand the situation on the ground. This will now be augmented and the department will benefit from the work done by the labour work stream of the multi sectoral Mac to timeously respond to concerns raised,” the department said.
Constant reporting of incidents of non-compliance will assist the department in protecting front line workers, it added.
The department is also continuing with its urgent drive to recruit new health workers, as the roll out of field hospitals will add pressure to the current work force.
“We have heartfelt appreciation for the dedication and hard work of our health workers, for caring for our nation in the fight against this invisible enemy. We bow our heads as we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in this fight and convey condolences to their loved ones. It is because of your hard work that South Africa will triumph over the pandemic,” the department said.