Northern Cape authorities have made provision for the health department to recruit more staff, including doctors, to beef up their fight against COVID-19. The province had earlier placed a moratorium on all government vacant positions citing lack of funds, but an exception has now been made for health.

“Most of our clinical staff they come and go others are on contracts, others are relocating to other provinces, others their contracts come to an end. So, there was an agreement that the moratorium will have a special exception for our clinical staff,” says Northern Cape MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene.

The health department says health facilities in their area have already made a request for more staff. MEC Maruping says the facilities might have to deal with more COVID-19 infections later, given how they are located.

“There’s a request that we must beef up their staff, especially nurses and even doctors. So, yesterday we met up with the team to check how then we can reinforce because if you can check where these towns are located, Richmond, Victoria West, Usubuntu… they are just on the border of Eastern Cape.”

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Pressure from unions

The Northern Cape Health Department says the decision was taken after serious engagements with all relevant stakeholders, including the treasury.

Doctors, complaining of being overworked, at Robert Sobukwe Hospital downed tools earlier last month demanding that all vacant positions at the hospital be filled.

Unions say it was as a result of pressure that they and South African Medical Association (SAMA) put on the government that led to the lifting of the moratorium in key areas.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) says the filling of posts comes at the right time when the number of infections is surging.

“We note the exception that has been made for the Department of Health to fill vacancies for clinical and non-clinical staff given the fact that the second wave has hit our province. There’s growing positive cases in all four regions, ZFM, Namakwa, Pixley, and also Sol Plaatje, so it will really help the department and workers in general,” says Nehawu’s Northern Cape Provincial Secretary, Steffen Cornelius.

Thirty-six more doctors are amongst those who were immediately appointed after the exception was made for health on the moratorium rule. The department says some of them are yet to accept their offers.  Report by Motlalepule Morake