Nehawu: SA’s overstretched healthcare system won’t survive second COVID wave

The union held a briefing where they announced they would be leading the nationwide marches by community healthcare workers on Thursday.

FILE: A vendor sells Nehawu hats. Picture: Christa Eybers/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) on Tuesday said South Africa’s overstretched healthcare system would not survive the second COVID-19 wave - especially with their members on strike.

The union held a briefing where they announced they would be leading the nationwide marches by community healthcare workers on Thursday.

Community healthcare workers have been on strike since 11 November. They are demanding all community healthcare workers be permanently employed by government and receive all benefits.

Nehawu encouraged all their members not to go to work if they felt their lives were in danger.

General Secretary Zola Saphetha, said “Our fact finding mission by our national office bearers laid bare the shortcomings of our health system and the areas that need urgent attention. The report was shared with the National Department of Health; and it would be very tragic if many people (lost) their lives because the department elected to ignore the recommendations made by the report.”

At the same time, Nehawu said government’s constant renewal of community healthcare workers contracts showed they were an essential service that will not go away.

They say, in a country like South Africa, where many in rural areas do not have direct access to healthcare facilities, community healthcare workers were essential.

They work as the bridge between hospitals and clinics in society where they often collect medication for the sick and deliver it to the doorstep of the community members.

But Saphetha said they weren’t treated as such.

“The government cannot continue to exploit these workers without meriting them – they deserve more than the meagre R3,500-a-month they’ve been subjected to for years.”

He said government continued to complain about money - even for essential services.

“Tito (Mboweni) has taken money from public health to save (South African Airways) but yet we are told they cannot absorb the cost of community healthcare workers.”

The union will march for various health offices in the country.

The health minister and all nine MECs will be meeting to discuss community healthcare workers.

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