DA wants urgent intervention following Volkswagen field hospital’s imminent closure

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

DA wants urgent intervention following Volkswagen field hospital’s imminent closure
By Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health
Date: 17 February 2021

Release: Immediate

The DA will write to the Eastern Cape Premier following the announcement that the Volkswagen sponsored Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital is facing closure and that hundreds of contract healthcare workers are losing their jobs. This is just the tip of the iceberg, with similar scenarios playing out across the province and we request urgent intervention.

At the same time as Premier Oscar Mabuyane was claiming victory in securing 625 nurses tenure, after it was revealed that the Department of Health had failed to renew their contracts, the Department of Health was issuing a directive to terminate all Covid-19 related appointments by the end of March.

Last week the acting Superintendent–General of the Eastern Cape Department of Health, Dr S. Zungu, released a circular, informing all health officials in the province that all Covid-19 posts would be terminated and that all stakeholders should be notified by the end of February.

The impact of this has already been felt by the 331 healthcare workers at the Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital.

This move is not only very short-sighted, but dangerous. There is no comprehensive vaccine rollout plan in place for the province, and all indications are that a third and possibly even fourth wave of infections is likely.

A capable state would be augmenting their resources wherever possible to ensure that when the time comes, they can provide the best response possible.

That is not the case in the Eastern Cape. Systemic critical staff shortages across the province means that even if the province has increased their bed capacity at traditional hospitals, they simply do not have the staff to man them.

Instead of extending contracts of qualified healthcare workers who have been at the coalface of this pandemic, who have meant the difference between life and death for thousands of patients in the province, the Department has decided its time for them to go, without so much as a thank you.

What is even more concerning is that, as the Department seems hell bent on winding down their Covid-19 response, it has also become open season on the additional resources that were procured.

The Nelson Mandela Bay District Manager has allegedly already given instructions to remove equipment from the Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni field hospital, supposedly to set up vaccination rollout facilities at Dora Nginza and Livingstone hospitals.

The District Manager does not have the mandate to remove equipment from one facility to another, without following due process, particularly as the Field Hospital is a Public Private Partnership entity with many stakeholders involved.

I will be writing to Premier Mabuyane to request his intervention, and to ensure that contracts are extended for as long as this province continues to deal with the Coronavirus crisis.

I will further be submitting a request to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) for a full investigation into the funding of field hospitals in the province, including the procurement of equipment for those hospitals, to establish whether funds have been redirected away from field hospitals to bolster other hospital budgets.