The South African Medical Association (SAMA) warned that access to adequate medical attention and supplies is proving difficult amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This after a Public Protector investigation into 17 public health facilities, revealed a shortage of personal protection equipment, poor hygiene, and substandard ambulance services amid the pandemic.
Health sector employees have also expressed exhaustion from working excessive hours as a result of clinical staff shortages.
SAMA Chairperson, Angelique Coetzee has warned the public to take extra precautions against contracting the coronavirus during the festive season.
Coetzee says, “This is why the medical fraternity is so up in arms about COVID-19 regulations not being followed because we are seeing it. We are experiencing it. You have to understand that this time of the year and I have made this publicly known – that we are going to go into a December with a lack of staff because a lot of the staff is going on leave…”
“It’s those doctors and nurses that can’t take it anymore, to see a patient suffering, to have to make a decision between a young patient and old patient, who is going to get that oxygen,” added Coetzee.
The Public Protector’s office has decried what it calls persistent shortages of Personal Protective Equipment and of health care workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says these are some of the findings contained in her 2020 report following inspections of various health institutions mostly in the Gauteng, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal.
Her deputy Kholeka Gcaleka says: “There was insufficient distribution and provisioning of PPE to ensure the staff and COVID-19 patients were adequately protected from the surge of the pandemic. It was a course of concern that the PPE were collected at the warehouse and procured by the department and not the hospitals themselves according to their personal needs. There were no dedicated drivers appointed to collect them at the warehouse and this contributed to the delay to the receiving of stock. Hospitals did not have sufficient PPE.”
Special relief grants
The Public Protector says it has also received about 1500 complaints regarding delayed or non-payment of the R350 special relief grants as well as numerous UIF benefits. Mkhwebane says they are working on resolving the complaints.
“The rest of the 1514 applications were rejected by SASSA and we are therefore still probing and sent feedback letters to complainants, we awaiting their response. We also had 38 matters regarding undue delay to UIF benefits in relation to COVID-19. All 38 of these have been resolved.”