News | South Africa | Health
Nurses are forced to choose between risking their lives to save others and losing their jobs. This according to the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) president Lerato Maduma-Gova.
Yesterday it emerged that the bulk of Compensation Fund claims for Covid-19 infections in the workplace came from women, most of whom were nurses. The latest statistics from claims lodged with the Compensation Fun showed that than 80 percent of the cases received so far involved women.
Even more concerning, government pointed out, was that most of these cases were nurses. Maduma-Gova said one of the health sector’s biggest mistakes was to fail to train nurses properly on the Covid-19 protocols for conduct while dealing with infected patients.
“This condition is brand new to them if we don’t train them, we are exposing them to actually dying. It’s good and well to say wear a mask and sanitise. Those are really the basics that the community must do but you must remember when I am nursing a Covid-19 patient I have got to know the path of physiology I need to know the treatment regimen..”, she said.
The lack of emphasis on wearing the correct N-95 mask also put nurses at risk as, according to Maduma-Gova, nurses often complained to her that employers did not treat this wit urgency when these masks ran out and other types of masks were used when making contact with infected patients.
Dangerous policies such as that which forces government nurses to go back to work after testing positive so long as they were asymptomatic meant nurses were not only more in danger of succumbing to the disease but were being primed to be the biggest carriers.
“What is sad is that often these women are the breadwinners in vulnerable families and they cannot afford to lose their jobs even if it means risking dying from this horrible disease. They really are caught between a rock and a hard place.”
Labour minister Thulas Nxesi called on employers to comply with Covid-19 regulations, expressing concern that nurses, who were predominantly female were at the highest risk of workplace transmission.
Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) national administrator Cassim Lekhoathi said it was difficult to explain how women had come to bear most of the burden when it came to transmissions in the healthcare sector, but it centered around the use of Personal Protective Equipment,which workers have complained was in low supply.
“There is the issue of procurement of PPEs, which could be among others. I have heard the quality of the PPE is not of good quality. Also the other contributing factor which our colleagues will not admit is their level of negligence in terms of how they wear and take on and putting on their equipment,” said Lekhoathi.
“They could also be getting infections elsewhere, not necessarily in the work place. They could be contracting it when they go outside, for example when they go home, they go to the shops they interact with people they attend events and so on.”
Out of 941 claims to date, the highest number came from the Western Cape which recorded 657 claims. Of that total, 533 were women. In the Eastern Cape, 99 of the 127 claimants were women. The Fund has accepted liability for 26 while 3 have been repudiated and 98 await adjudication.
Nxesi said he was concerned with the levels of compliance by employers, with compliance levels estimated at around 57% in the private sector and 47% in the public sector. Since the start of the lockdown in March, government served 385 prohibition notices with 2475 compliance notices served overall. Government had since increased the number of on site labour inspections. The minister called on workers to refuse to work in an unsafe environment.
“Equally, workers should refuse to work under dangerous conditions. Just this week, a company that flouted labour laws and did not adhere to lockdown regulations was found guilty and fined. It was the workers in that company who blew the whistle and both employer and employee have a responsibility for health and safety, albeit with differing roles,” said Minister Nxesi.
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