The Western Cape’s staffing and money shortages will be prioritised as a matter of urgency, as government attempts to deal with an upsurge of Covid-19 infections in the province, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.
Speaking during a monitoring visit to the province on Friday, where he was received by Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde, president Ramaphosa said the lack of money cannot stand in the way of saving lives.
“The staffing challenges must be solved. We’re at war. We’re fighting a life and death war and staffing challenges must be solved.
“We must headhunt and find all those staff members that we need to bring in and the cost is not an issue here, but saving lives is the issue,” the President said.
As of Thursday, the Western Cape had 27,006 of the 40,792 Covid-19 infections reported in the country, which is 66% too high for the population proportion.
Meanwhile, 1,306 health practitioners in the public sector alone have tested positive for Coronavirus and the province is expecting a 20% absenteeism rate and needs about 5,272 additional staff.
“We have to find the [health workers] and money is not going to be an issue. We must pull out all the stops to save lives,” said President Ramaphosa.
The Department of Defence and Military Veterans, the President said, is ready to bring in personnel to lend a hand.
“We must also find staff members in various other provinces and Health minister [Dr Zweli] Mkhize will make sure they are identified and are brought here.”
The province constitutes 77% of the deaths reported in the country and there are not enough beds as the number of infections is still expected to peak.
“The beds must be increased. It’s better to over-provide, rather than to under-provide because the worst is still to come.
“Because we’re at war, we should never be found wanting,” the president warned.
While he was pleased with some of the progress made, he raised serious concern on the province’s contact tracing strategy.
“It’s when we upscale our contact tracing that we’ll be able to follow through on all those who are infected,” he said, urging the province to speed up its testing.
The Western Cape has a backlog of 27,000 tests amid test kit scarcities. However, president Ramaphosa said the matter will be resolved, as millions of test kits will be made available on a monthly basis in Africa.
“Then we’ll be able to continue with our testing,” he said, adding that screening should be continued.
Observing health protocols
The President reiterated the call for health protocols to be strictly followed to curb infections.
He said one way infections have been spreading in the province has been through a lack of sufficient social distancing in public spaces such as malls.
“We must embark on a massive communication campaign, so the level of awareness amongst our people is raised exponentially.
“They must become aware of the need for social distancing, wearing of masks, cleaning of hands and all protocols that need to be put in place.”
As the epicentre, the Western Cape needs about R3 billion for Covid-19 and president Ramaphosa said the funding will be made available for beds, staff, focusing on hotspots and communication strategies.
He called on the province to deal with the social impact of the disease, such as hunger, which impacts scores of people.
“We must make sure we distribute food and there’s no corruption. We do it on the basis of addressing the needs of our people.”
The President has committed to visiting the province again, should the need arise.
“We will all keep our hands on deck… This is a long war. It will probably take us a year and a half, probably two, dealing with Covid-19. We mustn’t lose the stamina.”