South Africa’s healthcare workers infected with Covid-19

South Africa’s healthcare workers are increasingly becoming infected with Covid-19, as hospital beds begin to fill up with total cases having surpassed 55,000 in the country on Wednesday (10 June).

Private healthcare groups Netcare and Life Healthcare told Parliament on Wednesday that they are providing their staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) and have also made counselling available.

Life Healthcare said that disinfection of surfaces and environment is ongoing,  along with rotation of shifts to minimise emotional and physical burden for employees. Vulnerable employees, it said, take special precautions.

It said that employees are monitored via a dedicated staff tracker, which is reported to the Department of Health on a daily basis. Life Healthcare has 16,376 employees in South Africa. It said that 313 (1.9%) staff and doctors have been infected since 22 March.

National data by province

Netcare noted that 232 of its approximately 21,000 staff members have been infected, while two staff members, one from Gauteng and the other from the Western Cape, have passed away, News24  reported.

The group’s chief executive, Richard Friedland, said that while staff remain safe in hospitals, the risk comes when travelling to work and in their communities.

Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has previous stated that the number of healthcare workers in the public sector as of May 28, amounted to 2,084, with approximately 80% in the Western Cape.

The Department of Employment and Labour said it has begun to provide compensation for those workers in the healthcare sector who might otherwise find themselves without any income as a result of the virus.

It said that already, the Compensation Fund (CF) has seen 212 Covid-19 related claims with the largest number coming from KwaZulu-Natal having registered 76 claims. The fund has accepted liability of 67 of those claims; two have been repudiated while seven are awaiting adjudication.

The Western Cape is the second biggest applicant with 75 claims with 41 of those accepted and 34 awaiting adjudication, the department said.

Gauteng received 30 claims and half of those have been accepted, four repudiated and 11 are awaiting arbitration while the Eastern Cape has registered 28 cases of which 26 have been accepted, one has been repudiated and another awaits arbitration.

Two claims have been registered from Limpopo with one accepted and the other repudiated; meanwhile Mpumalanga had only one case which has been accepted, it said.

According to CF commissioner, Vuyo Mafata, most of those affected are nurses in the private sector with 65 affected in KZN, 26 in Western Cape and 18 in Gauteng. In the Eastern Cape 12 nurses that have been affected are in the public sector.

A further 42 claims have been lodged through the Mutual Association of which one has been accepted, seven repudiated and 34 are pending adjudication.

“When we say we have accepted the claim as a valid occupational injury or disease, it means we accept responsibility for the costs related to the claim. When it is repudiated, it means we have not accepted the claim as a valid occupational injury or disease and we will not take responsibility for the costs related to the claim,” said Mafata.

“Sometimes we do not accept liability which means we have repudiated a claim but may still reconsider it if additional information is submitted to support the claim.”

Read: Here’s how big South Africa’s coronavirus test backlog is: NHLS

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South Africa’s healthcare workers infected with Covid-19