After a public outcry coupled with protest action, the Eastern Cape Health has sourced R400m to keep 8,000 COVID-19 contract workers employed for the next three months and community workers for another 12 months.
News24 reports that the contracts of the frontline workers were due to end on Wednesday, 31 March, but with the funding obtained, they will be able to work for another couple of months. The move comes after extensive consultations, the department announced this week.
The decision to extend the contracts was taken after a technical team led by Eastern Cape Health Department acting superintendent-general Dr Sibongile Zungu made recommendations to Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth.
"While the department has serious budgetary constraints, the workers' contract extension was prioritised, with the R400m needed to pay their salaries being found. But this means we have only managed to identify just over R400m to extend the contracts. Ideally, we would have extended their contracts long ago or advertised the positions if we did not have financial challenges," the department said.
MEC Meth said in the report that with the third wave of COVID-19 infections expected to hit South Africa soon, the province needed all hands on deck.
News24 reports that the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) has welcomed the extension of nurses' contracts. Denosa said the department's move was ill-advised and short-sighted considering the province had a chronic shortage of healthcare personnel.