The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department says it will employ an additional 3 000 healthcare workers to deal with the expected increase in COVID-19 cases as the national lockdown is eased. Provincial Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu visited the Clairwood Hospital in Durban on Tuesday.

The newly-refurbished facility has an additional 154 beds for isolation cases and 40 for patients who need to be quarantined.

The refurbished Clairwood Hospital looks almost new. It now has technology that is able to detect the body temperature of a person, before entering one of the blocks dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients. A person simply has to stand in front of a mounted thermometer, to check their temperature. The improvements at the Clairwood Hospital include over 150 isolation wards for COVID-19 patients.

“When we are done with the facility, in about a week or two, we are going to have a total 154 isolation beds. When we started as the province we had 230 plus beds that were readily available now with all the work that we are doing by the end of June, we are going to have 1 805 beds that are for isolation. But in total, which will include the quarantine beds, we are going to have 7 000 beds, ” says Simelane-Zulu.

More health workers to be employed 

 And it’s not just bed capacity that’s getting a boost. Simelane-Zulu says 3 000 staff members – among them professional and enrolled nurses, orderlies and ICU nurses – will be employed to bolster healthcare facilities across the province.

“The Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal has been extremely short-staffed when it comes to professional nurses, enrolled nurse assistance but as I speak to you today we have had discussions of employing new nurses, professional nurses,  new ICU nurses,  new nurses assistants and so forth.  We are very excited that within the next week or two, we are going to be employing more than 4 000 nurses in the province of KwaZulu-Natal from different levels and all the other categories of people that we need because there is no way that you can run a facility or a hospital with just doctors and professional nurses.  You actually need all the people that are within the structure so that your nurses or your workforce are not overworked.”

Unions pleased 

Unions have welcomed the move by the provincial health department to employ more staff.

“We have been raising this concern that there is a gross shortage of all workers in public sector that is your nurses, your cleaners,  so we appreciate this opportunity that they have decided to employ more people especially when the workload increases during COVID-19. We really appreciate the effort that has been put behind further to those contracts they are offering to our people. We strongly believe that what has been created now, the workload might not be reduced because in the past already the staff that was there was depleted. So after six months, we believe that these contracts must be made permanent, ” says Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa’s (DENOSA) Mandla Shabangu.

Unions meanwhile continue to call for clear guidelines to protect healthcare workers if they are exposed to a COVID-19 case. In KwaZulu-Natal, workers have previously downed tools  – calling for their employer to test them, after one of their colleagues tested positive for the virus.

Below is a breakdown of the latest COVID-19 stats: