The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has described the findings by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on the dire shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at 17 health facilities as “shocking and distressing”.
A report compiled by the public protector’s office detailed, on Monday, severe difficulties facing the health sector, including that frontline workers were some of the most exposed to Covid-19, with PPE shortages leaving some nurses to wear torn equipment.
The report also noted shortages of oxygen points, thermometers, disposable bins, and decanters.
This is after Deputy Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka and her inspected hospitals in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, covering 17 public hospitals.
Meanwhile, SAMA chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said on Wednesday that the findings uncovered in the report required urgent intervention.
“Of particular concern are the findings related to healthcare workers. Firstly, there is a ‘chronic shortage’ of nurses and, secondly, the report finds that doctors are being overworked; they’re expected to work excessive hours. We have raised these issues over and over again to no avail but it is clear that intervention is needed now,” Coetzee said.
Coetzee said it was concerning that healthcare workers were experiencing shortages of PPE, which placed them at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.
“The procurement of proper, usable PPE is absolutely vital to the functioning of hospitals. The fact that this has not happened is indicative of bigger management issues at hospital, provincial and national level.
“Health workers are already facing exposure to coronavirus, but without proper PPE this exposure is exponentially higher.
“They are, effectively, risking their lives and those of their families, because of poor decision-making – or lack of decision-making – from all levels of management.”
She further said SAMA would interrogate the full report before raising the issues with authorities.
“We now know we have a major problem on our hands, and it’s only going to get worse unless interventions are made quickly.
“We have to ensure the safety of healthcare workers, because it’s vital to their and their patients’ well-being. We will certainly be taking these concerns further because this situation cannot be allowed to continue,” Coetzee concluded.
Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa