The National Education and Health Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) wants an urgent meeting with Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize about the government’s actions to tackle Covid-19 as the number of infections spike and the third wave is fast approaching.
The union has questioned why the government is trimming down the number of temporary treatment facilities when its vaccine campaign has yet to get into full swing.
“The vaccination programme is very slow, and there is no indication of ramping up the acquisition of more ventilators, oxygen and extra beds in preparation for a third wave,” Nehawu said in a statement.
“Moreover, the Covid-19 messaging campaign is not yielding the desired results.”
It said that one of its fact-finding mission reports pointed to understaffing as one of the major reasons why the healthcare system is overstretched.
“The government still unfortunately insists on not filling vacant posts in order to deal with the huge workload, including employing community health workers (CWHs) who can play a crucial role in the vaccination program.”
The union said that it was demanding answers from the minister to inspire confidence that South Africa will be able to ward off the imminent third wave.
It said that health workers were already anxious and worried about the number of hospitalisations from the recent resurgence of infections.
According to the Department of Health there was an increase in new cases from 8,593 in the preceding seven days (26April to 2 May 2021) to 12,531 cases in the past seven days (3-9 May 2021), constituting a 46% increase.
Most of the increases took place in Gauteng, Limpopo, North West, Northern Cape and the Western Cape. Covid-19 deaths in the same period increased by 18.22% from 269 to 318, with most deaths in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
Mkhize said on Wednesday that South Africa was already riding a third wave although the definition was not technically fitting.
“For all intents and purposes, we are in the third wave even if it is not fitting a technical definition. The numbers will no longer go down unless we start intensive containment measures,” Mkhize said.