Calls for health ministry to appoint healthcare assistants

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Labour unions, Hospersa and Public Servants Association (PSA) in the Northern Cape have called on the Ministry of Health to move swiftly in appointing healthcare facility assistants and COVID brigades, who have been in the system for many years.

About 2 000 workers were placed around the province since the COVID-19 pandemic. The workers, including porters and cleaners, feel they should be absorbed permanently as they work for eight hours yet receive less than minimum wage.

Hospersa provincial chairperson, Dennis Segano, says, “Now, we are having a group of people that came in as health facility assistants and COVID brigades. Those people are assisting the facility. They are helping us to clean; they are earning R3 500. When we talk about when is there going to be an appointment we are being told about the no money but still, there’s money for other things. But there’s no money for appointing these particular people that are being exploited that are earning R3 500 per month because they are the ones that are assisting us now. There’s no cleaners; there’s no porters … it’s shortage of staff,”

Public Servants Association Chairperson Olebogeng Selabe says there’s a lot of other issues that the department has ignored that have affected the quality of care provided at provincial hospitals.

“There’s a serious defect in the infrastructure for a number of years. Some of the hospitals and clinics haven’t been maintained. One other thing that you have is the issue of a serious shortage of staff specifically in terms of the issue of the emergency medical services whereby we only have a few workers in terms of EMS in the province and our province is so vast some of them can’t even go on leave or they stay on overtime,” says Selabe.

Minister of Health, Dr. Joe Phaahla has called on the affected workers to follow proper channels in trying to get their matters resolved.

Phaahla, who was in the province a few days ago, says it’s unfair to be ambushed with issues he is not familiar with, but has promised workers that the department will attend to their plight.

“When people just rock up and you have not even had the chance, you know, to be briefed as to what the issues are and so that you can intelligently engage … but I’m happy to say that one of my people who work with me in the ministry’s office, at least, they understood that and they’ve given us their grievances. So, we’re going to be looking at them with the MEC because it’s written now so we will be able to follow up.”

While the healthcare workers hope the department will resolve their issue quickly, the minister highlighted another challenge the department is facing.

As of July this year, the Northern Cape Health has pending medical claims of R2. 1 billion. The minister adds that they are working with law enforcement agencies to reduce the number of fictitious claims.