Northern Cape makes provision to hire doctors, nurses as COVID-19 cases rise

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Northern Cape authorities have made provision for the health department to recruit more staff that include doctors to beef up their fight against COVID-19 in the province.

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, due to the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Unions say the department’s turn to open healthcare vacancies comes as a result of pressure they exerted on the government to lift the moratorium. The Northern Cape health department says it was after serious engagements with all relevant stakeholders including treasury to take this decision.

Doctors at Robert Sobukwe Hospital  Kimberley downed tools in December, demanding that all vacant positions at the hospital be filled. This as a moratorium placed in all government vacancies at least until the end of the financial year.

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At that time, doctors, nurses and all clinical staff complained of being overworked, the government eventually conceded as it was not going to be possible for health to operate with a high rate of vacancies.

Northern Cape Health MEC Maruping Lekwene says, “You can’t close persal for health given the nature of our work. So most of our clinical staff 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.”

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

“There’s a request that we must beef up 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 borders of Eastern Cape,” says Maruping.

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Unions say it was as a result of pressure that they and the South African Medical Association (SAMA) put on the government, that led to the lifting of the moratorium in key areas. NEHAWU says the filling of posts comes at a right time when the number of infections are surging.

NEHAWU’s provincial secretary Steffen Cornelius says, “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 are 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.”

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.

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Story by: Motlalepule Morake