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Nehawu vs Dept of Health court case over COVID-19 equipment delayed

The union took government to court to compel the department to provide their members in the health care sector with personal protective equipment (PPE).

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

JOHANNESBURG - The court matter between National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) and the Department of Health has been delayed in the Labour Court.

The union took government to court to compel the department to provide their members in the health care sector with personal protective equipment (PPE) in the fight against coronavirus.

There is a global shortage of personal protective gear for health care workers and South Africa is not immune to this.

There have been reports of hospitals nationwide where health care professionals have been forced to work without protective equipment and Cosatu and its affiliate Nehawu want answers.

The required PPE is more than just gloves and masks, but also includes goggles, face shields and overalls.

According to the union, the department only submitted their court papers at 2 am on Tuesday.

Cosatu's Bheki Ntshalintshali said Nehawu would like the matter to be postponed in order for them to respond to the answering affidavit.

“We’ve now requested more time to respond to the answering affidavit of the State and requested that the judge should set the matter down for Friday. We’ve also been told that the department has opposed that and they want the matter to be heard this afternoon.”

WATCH: COVID 19: Is the virus airborne and do masks and hand sanitisers work?

Cosatu said the matter between Nehawu and the department would be a platform for government to clarify just how severe its shortage of protective gear was.

Ntshalintshali said government had failed to communicate the severity of the country’s protective gear.

“One says it’s enough and another says there might be a shortage in the near future. If it comes to court, I think they will speak the truth; is there a shortage or is there a shortage coming very soon?

Meanwhile, the Motsepe Foundation has handed over a consignment of personal protective gear to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

The stock is expected to last between six to eight weeks.

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

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