The Labour Court in Johannesburg is expected to hear an urgent application by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) against the Department of Health, on Tuesday, regarding protective equipment for workers at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trade union is demanding that health workers be provided with personal protective equipment while treating patients.
In the audio below, Nehawu to approach Labour Court on Tuesday:
In its court papers, Nehawu says government doesn’t care about the safety of health workers. The union says the Health Department failed to ensure that all doctors and nurses are provided with protective gear. It wants the Labour Court to ensure that steps are taken to mitigate the risk of infection.
The trade union also wants the court to rule that employees shouldn’t be compelled to render their services if they’re not provided with protective gear and that they should not be threatened or subjected to disciplinary measures for refusing to do so.
Earlier, healthcare workers said their greatest fear is infecting their families with the coronavirus.
“I have a two-year-old, I fear infecting my child. I think that’s a concern that every healthcare worker is scared about,” KwaZulu-Natal lung specialist Dr. Leon Naidoo said.
Some healthcare workers are self-isolating in an effort to protect their families from the virus.
This as the national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa is now on day 12. Healthcare workers, who will continue to work throughout the lockdown say, while their emotions are high they will do all humanly possible to contain the virus and save lives.
Naidoo, however, says the private sector is experiencing a shortage of resources.
“Our major fear is if the disaster hits all at once. What are we going to do? In the state of emergency, the Health Minister will use us as doctors first. We are going to have to at some point practice out of our field of expertise just to keep patients alive. I think that’s what everyone is scared of as well.”
“We are having to share resources at the moment. A mask that you would use in the ICU, that you would throw away after seeing a patient, you actually have to keep it and use it again.”