Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has appointed a team led by Professor Taole Mokoena to conduct an urgent investigation into allegations of health care workers contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty, due to lack or poor quality of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We have even received reports that some [healthcare workers] may be dying after being infected due to the lack of sufficient PPE or due to sufficient PPE not being provided and/or failure or neglect by management to adhere to prescribed workplace safety protocols.
“We want to outrightly state that this cannot be tolerated,” said the Minister.
The Minister’s appointment of a team follows reports that a doctor had passed away at George Mukhari Academic Hospital due to COVID-19 related illness.
“There were also allegations that this was due to lack of sufficient supply of PPE and doctors being made to work in unsafe environments at the facility.
“I viewed these allegations in a serious light and have decided to urgently appoint a team led by Professor Taole Mokoena together with other medical, nursing and legal professionals, to conduct an urgent investigation and provide me with a report in 14 days from the commencement date.
“This report will provide me with independent findings and recommendations. These will also be communicated publicly,” said the Minister.
Mkhize assured members of the public that if individuals entrusted with positions of power in health facilities or even at district level are found to be in dereliction of duty by not ensuring adherence with health protocols, appropriate action will be taken against them.
“We encourage health care workers at this facility to avail themselves for this probe. I believe that this approach of zooming into specific incidents will assist us to establish the real challenges and deficiencies occurring in the health facilities.
“It will also ensure accountability and promote a culture of heightened awareness of workplace safety,” he said.
Health workers account for 5% of all confirmed cases
According to the Department of Health, healthcare workers account for 5% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 2 August 2020, a total of 24 104 healthcare workers had contracted COVID-19 with 181 fatalities recorded.
On 17 July 2020, the World Health Organisation reported that health workers account for 10% of global infections.
“As part of continuous monitoring, we have requested provinces to further verify and break down this data so that we know exactly how many health workers have demised, recovered, the full breakdown of categories of health care workers.
“Whilst we appreciate that employees can acquire the virus both in their line of duty as well as in the community, we encourage employers in different sectors across the country to continue taking measures to minimise the chances of acquiring Coronavirus in the workplace,” said the Minister.