Third wave during vaccine rollout could prove catastrophic for EC Health

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

A third wave of the Covid-19 virus during the rollout of the vaccination programme could prove to be catastrophic in the Eastern Cape, as there are simply not enough healthcare workers in our facilities to deal with responding to the virus and rolling out the vaccine programme simultaneously.

The Department of Health must craft a workable contingency plan that includes filling critical vacant posts in all hospitals and clinics, as well as working with the private sector and appropriate Non- Government Organisations (NGO’s) to manage the vaccine rollout effectively while at the same time being able to respond to the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the bureaucratic administration of the Department remains bloated with cadres who are not fit for purpose, hospitals and clinics across the province continue to struggle with high vacancy rates in critical posts.

How will our hospitals cope in the increasingly likely event that the third wave of the virus strikes while the vaccination programme is in full swing?

Their wage bills have been capped and their operational budgets slashed, but they are still expected to offer a full range of health services.

Savings from unfilled posts to settle medico-legal claims are creating an environment that is conducive to further litigation.

Covid-19 testing has been put on the back burner, while community health workers are being trained as vaccinators.

The vaccine rollout in South Africa is one of the most disorganised in the world. When the programme finally starts, the vaccination sites will be inundated.

The province has approximately two thousand vaccination sites that have to be effectively manned if the programme has any hope of vaccinating 4,3 million people by the end of October.

I will write to the MEC for Health, Nomakosazana Meth, to establish what contingency plans she has put in place to effectively staff clinics and hospitals to respond to the third wave, while the vaccination programme is being rolled out.

I will further request a status report on the steps being taken to reduce the wage bill in the administrative sector of the Health Department, which will then free up monies for critical medical posts within our facilities.

In a capable state, the core mandate of Health Departments remains the delivery of effective healthcare services to the people and not the creation of bloated bureaucracies.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to fight for effectively staffed hospitals and clinics, as well as good health services for all of our citizens.