NEHAWU Statement On The Private Healthcare Becoming The Weakest Link In The Fight Against COVID-19

NEHAWU Statement On The Private Healthcare Becoming The Weakest Link In The Fight Against COVID-19

Wednesday April 15, 2020

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes with grave concern reports that 12 employees in Mediclinic Morningside tested positive for COVID-19. The 12 workers include 7 frontline healthcare workers who are critical in the fight against the spread of the disease.

This comes on the heels of 66 people testing positive for COVID-19 and 48 of those being our members at the St Augustine Hospital in Durban. Five patients died from COVID-19 complications in St Augustine Hospital. The escalation of the number of workers who are recklessly exposed to the virus is a serious cause for concern. As NEHAWU, we want to make it unequivocally clear that failure to protect workers is tantamount to murder.

While the entire country is up in arms trying to fight the virus the private healthcare sector has dropped the ball and this has led to the infection of our members and workers with the virus. The national union finds it extremely unacceptable that the management of these hospitals are so reckless up to the point of losing this large number of workers while we are struggling with understaffing. Loss of frontline workers and closure of hospitals limits the number of beds needed to treat patients and the adequate number of workers needed for healthcare facilities to function.

The attitude and negligence of the managers in the Private Healthcare Industry is making a mockery of the report presented to the nation by Professor Salim Abdool Karim on SA’s COVID-19 Epidemic: Trends and Next Steps. Prof Karim warned the nation that we need to stop small flames to reduce the risk of raging fires.

NEHAWU views this egregious conduct by private healthcare providers in a very serious light as it is in stark contrast with the requirements and dictates of the OHS Act which clearly states that the employer has an obligation to provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of workers.

NEHAWU has always fought relentlessly against the maximisation and prioritisation of profits above the health and safety of our members and workers. Through these tragic incidents NEHAWU is vindicated on its numerous calls to private healthcare role players to desist from worshipping profit margins against the plight of the poor and marginalised working class.

It is very unfortunate that even during this time when as a country we are faced with the mammoth challenge of confronting the COVID-19 outbreak the private healthcare sector is still hell-bent on maximising their profits and being overly concerned about their standing at the JSE rather than working towards the national common goal that seeks to flatten the curve and disrupt the spread of this infectious disease.

The national union finds it disheartening to witness that these hospital groups have failed to defend the lives of workers and this bluntly depicts how they fail to hold the sanctity of life above their huge appetite for profits.

We will engage the Department of Employment and Labour on their inspectors reports on the compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act by private healthcare providers especially Mediclinic Morningside and Netcare St Augustine. Those found to be in the wrong must face the full might of the law. In our next meeting with the Minister of Health as part of our ongoing engagements on the fight against COVID-19 we will raise sharply the issue of private healthcare providers and their recklessness.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969;
Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500

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