Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the department is implementing interventions aimed at addressing COVID-19 infections among healthcare workers.
The Minister said this while giving an update on the COVID-19 pandemic to the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Mkhize said as at 30 June 2020, 4 821 healthcare workers in both the public and private healthcare facilities were reported to have been infected with the virus across the country.
The Western Cape continued to account for the majority of infected health care workers with 3 285 infections, or 68%, as of 29 June 2020.
“The leading number of infections are amongst nurses with 2 473 infections followed by other health professionals including community health workers reporting 1 971 and doctors recording 377 infections.”
The Minister said interventions have been put in place to address infections among healthcare workers.
“Guidelines to support all health workers across the continuum of care were developed. A targeted training programme has been designed and implemented to enhance the understanding of the pandemic and facilitate the application of these guidelines.
“[This] primarily includes infection prevention and control as well as case management. In-service training of all health care workers to ensure that workers can cope with the management of the pandemic relative to their scope of work has been initiated.”
Use of PPEs
Meanwhile, the use of personal protective equipment (PPEs) remained a challenge facing healthcare workers during the pandemic.
Since the arrival of the pandemic, PPE supply chains have become severely constrained both globally as well as in South Africa and limited imports and shortages of raw materials adversely affected local production.
Mkhize said through the generosity of donations made by South Africans, the Solidarity Fund was able to commit a total of R815 million towards the procurement of urgently needed PPEs for South Africa.
The country also received generous donations of PPE from several countries, foundations, businesses and churches.
“We are happy that the Solidarity Fund has indicated its willingness to support the immediate distribution of PPE in its possession to various provinces”
The Minister said the rational use of PPEs is the greatest challenge facing the country.
“The rational use of PPE’s is the greatest challenge facing us during this pandemic. Healthcare workers, labour unions, and professional associations, due to the concern for the safety of themselves and their members are expecting to be provided with the full spectrum of PPEs.”
“In determining the PPE requirements for health care workers, we are guided by advice from infection prevention and control experts. We want to assure frontline healthcare workers that the PPE requirements for health workers at different levels of risk are informed by evidence,” he said.
Mkhize said as of 7 July 2020, the department’s own assessment points to the fact that there is sufficient PPE stock available to meet the requirements of frontline healthcare workers.
“We endeavour to ensure that the appropriate PPE is made available to protect frontline healthcare workers from getting infected by the Coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance MP Siviwe Gwarube conveyed her condolences to South Africans who have lost their loved ones over the past four months, describing COVID-19 as one of the most destructive and deadliest pandemics in recent history.
“As we gather here today, there are people who are languishing in hospitals, fighting for their lives and their homes and over 3500 people have lost their lives. To many these are not just fatalities – it is a family member, a friend or a colleague.”
She thanked healthcare workers for their service.
“All the while healthcare workers are throwing their bodies on the line working in the most impossible conditions. Siyababulela ngomsebenzi wabo (we thank them for their service),” she said.