Almost a full two months after the contracts of thousands of healthcare workers were extended to assist in the continued vaccine rollout and manage the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, they remain unpaid by the Department of Health.
This non-payment of critical staff has been blamed on glitches in the PERSAL system and poor connectivity. This is utter nonsense as all other employees were paid by the same PERSAL system.
Affected workers were promised in writing that they would be paid on 4 May, to no avail.
The cohort of unpaid staff includes Community Service Professional Nurses, Community Healthcare Workers, Ward Based Outreach Team Professional and Enrolled Nurses, as well as sessional Medical Doctors.
They all play a critical role in testing patients for Covid-19, nursing Covid – 19 patients in hospitals, and managing the rollout of the vaccination programme. They are thus essential to the management of this pandemic.
These workers, like all of us, have family responsibilities. They need to put food on the table and have bills to pay but cannot do so because of yet another departmental failure.
The senior management of the Health Department has, over the past two years, shown utter disrespect for these contract workers by terminating their contracts several times. Yet, it is these contract workers who have put their lives on the line in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of course, there are no glitches in the PERSAL system or connectivity problems when paying senior millionaire managers, who are nowhere near the frontline in the ongoing fight to manage this disease.
I have written to the MEC for Health, Nomakhosazana Meth, to request that she urgently intervene to ensure that the payment of the contract workers is prioritised and that they receive all outstanding monies immediately.
The more bloated the senior management cohort in the Health Department is becoming, the more poorly it performs. It is time for the HOD to trim the administrative sails and channel financial and other resources to those doing the real work of caring for the sick.