The contracts of more than 5,000 community healthcare workers (CHW) in the Eastern Cape will be terminated at the end of March because the provincial Health Department has run out of funds, reports GroundUp.
Sizwe Kupelo, spokesperson for the department, says the workers were employed through the National Disaster Fund to assist with COVID-19 efforts. “The department is trying to source funding, but at this stage the contracts are coming to an end,” he said.
Union leaders are questioning how other provinces like KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng managed to extend the contracts of their CHWs. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and SA Federation of Trade Unions are calling for the contracts to be extended as the country expects a possible third wave of COVID-19.
Miki Jaceni, provincial Nehawu secretary, said: “We have held numerous engagements with the acting head of the department, Dr Zungu, to discuss retention of the COVID-19 workers but all our attempts were in vain.”
Mzikazi Nkata, secretary of SAFTU in Nelson Mandela Bay, said, “We as healthcare promoters, CHWs, nurses and education assistants joined the national call for an anti-austerity budget. We have already received a circular from Eastern Cape government that our contracts will not be renewed after 31 March 2021. We knew that this was exactly in line with the budget cuts that were being employed by this government.”
Nkata is quoted in Groundup as saying frontline workers who died during the course of the pandemic have not yet been replaced. “If our contracts are not renewed the pressure (of being understaffed) will intensify, causing a huge disaster for service delivery and astonishing numbers of COVID-19 fatalities in the province,” she said.
Full GroundUp report (Open access)