Govt needs to address health sector’s potential full-blown strike, says PSC commissioner

Picture for illustration. Nurses set up new ventilators during an event at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg on 24 August 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney

The PSC has received a number of complaints on corruption on the procurement of PPE in the health sector.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has called on the Presidency and the department of public service and administration to urgently negotiate or meet the demands of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) after the union threatened to go on a full-blown strike.

During a media briefing on Monday, 14 September, Nehawu said it would continue with lunch hour demonstrations until President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to their demands.

Nehawu’s demands include proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, for government to address mounting allegations of corruption linked to the procurement of PPE and the adequate compensation for healthcare workers who since the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic have faced intense strain.

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The union also demand mechanisms in place for workers dealing with Covid-19 as well as for PPE tenders to be centralised to a remedy for reported corruption.

Speaking on the Quarterly Bulletin on Tuesday, 15 September PSC Commissioner Michael Seloane said the PSC had received a number of complaints on corruption on the procurement of PPE and were being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The Quarterly Bulletin Pulse of the Public Service covers the period 01 April to 30 June 2020, which is the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year.

Seloane said the national anti-corruption hotline (NACH) had become a useful instrument for reporting complaints during the country’s Covid-19 nation lockdown.

“In terms of the NACH statistics, a total of 104 cases of alleged corruption reported through the NACH were received in the first quarter of 2020/2021 and were simultaneously referred to the national and provincial departments as well as public entities for investigation.”

Seloane said that government needed to discuss matters with Nehawu to avoid the strike as it might place the economy at risk.

READ MORE: Effect of health sector strike comes second to frontline workers’ lives – Nehawu

“The distribution pf PPE to health workers became a challenge for the department of health because already had challenges and the situation led to some hospitals having more PPE than others, which of course resulted in some health workers losing their lives by being in the frontline.

“It is unfortunate that was the case. Unions in the health sector are representatives of these workers and they organise themselves to try enforce the department to supply PPE to the workers to hospitals where it is needed.

“So it would be unfortunate if the strike goes full-blown because it might place the lives of the health workers at risk because if some health workers contract the virus, they can’t go to work which means the economy might be affected.

“Government along with the department of public service and administration need to address this matter.”

The strike might affect both private and public health, parastatals, public service administration, higher education, including both private and public social development according to Nehawu.

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