The stark reality of how exhausted our healthcare workers really are was brought home in an emotional oversight visit to Livingstone and the Port Elizabeth Provincial hospitals in Nelson Mandela Bay last week, conducted by myself and DA leader in the provincial legislature, Bobby Stevenson.
The Eastern Cape Department of Health urgently needs assistance from other provincial departments, most notably Social Development and Public Works, if it is to make it through the current crisis it finds itself in.
Provincial, tertiary and central hospitals have been at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Eastern Cape and the emotional and physical fatigue caused by this fifteen-month viral onslaught are taking their toll on our frontline healthcare workers.
As the financial status of the department remains precarious, it is time for sister departments to step in and support our frontline workers and their institutions. In a capable state, government departments do not work in silos but overlap to enhance service delivery and ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money.
The Department of Social Development should, for example, provide free trauma counselling to all hospital staff who have been involved in the COVID-19 response. Many of our doctors and nurses have lost colleagues, family members and dear friends, but have had to continue working without an opportunity to grieve because there are simply not enough of them at the coalface of the COVID-19 response.
Trauma counselling without the price tag that would come from such a service in the private sector would assist enormously in allowing them to begin the healing process.
The Department of Public Works could also contribute in terms of maintenance and upgrading at these facilities, as the buildings are old and the Health Department does not have sufficient budget to do so itself. They could, for example, provide a maintenance team to each of the hospitals to effect repairs and upgrades to enhance service delivery.
I shall write to the MEC of Health, the Hon Meth, to urge her to consult with the relevant sister departments to achieve the following outcomes:
Healthcare workers receive regular and effective trauma counselling; maintenance teams are deployed to these hospitals to upgrade and improve facilities; and the budgets of these hospitals are not impacted in any way and can be fully channelled towards goods and services to enhance healthcare delivery.
COVID-19 and its impact will be with us for many years to come and we must ensure that our healthcare workforce is resilient and ready to continue the fight.
Issued by Jane Cowley – Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Health
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