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Parly committee calls for probe into lack of protective gear for health workers

Committee chairperson Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo expressed concern over the reported shortage and called on government to do something urgently.

Gauteng healthcare workers screening Alexandra residents for coronavirus (COVID-19) on 31 March 2020 following the roll out of massive community screenings and testing programmes by the provincial executive council. Picture: Ahmed Kajee/EWN.

CAPE TOWN – Parliament’s health committee on Thursday called on Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize to investigate the lack of protective gear for health workers amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Committee chairperson Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo expressed concern over the reported shortage and called on government to do something urgently.

Unions representing the police, prison officials, and health workers had slammed government for failing to provide adequate protection against COVID-19 infections.

Thousands of workers, most of them essential, are at risk of contracting the virus as they go about their duties during the national lockdown.

“The committee cannot ignore the reports about the absence or shortage of masks in any of the public healthcare facilities. We urge the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize to investigate the complaints as voiced by the trade unions,” Dhlomo said in a statement.

Dhlomo said he spoke to Mkhize a few days ago but the minister had no details about the shortage. He said there would be a follow-up discussion with the minister and the department for an update on the matter.

“Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet with the minister who also indicated that the safety of healthcare workers remains a top priority of his department. He said an investigation into the matter will be conducted and report back on the findings. This will give assurance to the trade unions and healthcare workers that we indeed support them and care about their safety,” he said.

WATCH: Chinese, Cuban doctors to assist in SA; and other points from Mkhize briefing

At the same time, Mkhize has received more praise for his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak from the committee.

Dhlomo said he also sent Mkhize messages, commending him for his work in the handling of the pandemic in South Africa.

He said Mkhize had managed to keep them abreast as members of Parliament and as ordinary South Africans.

“We are kept abreast as MPs and as a county. It’s actually, very critical and important, it takes away any anxiety and panic among South Africans when he does appear. I also sent him messages to commend his leadership.”

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.