About 70 community health workers protested outside the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature in Bhisho on Monday, demanding that they be employed permanently. But the health department says it has no money to employ them. Protests were also held in Gqeberha and Queenstown. The contracts of about 2,700 community health workers are expected to end in March. The workers were hired by the provincial health department in an effort to bolster services during the pandemic. The workers have given the department two weeks to respond to their demands. Meanwhile, staff at clinics in Mdantsane say they are buckling under the pressure of the pandemic and understaffing.
Eastern Cape health spokesperson Yonela Dekeda said the department has no additional budget to extend the workers’ contracts this financial year. She said 634 nurses, 91 doctors and 128 medical staff are affected by this. The department needs about R358 million to hire these health professionals to fill posts in community service, she said. “Unfortunately this funding is not available for the remaining two years of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework,” said Dekeda. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) has called for the national Department of Health to urgently intervene to “prevent a catastrophic health crisis in the Eastern Cape”.
by Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik