Health minister Zweli Mhize has published new regulations that give the government sweeping powers to redeploy doctors, nurses and other health-care personnel to combat COVID-19 pandemic, in a move that could worsen an already tense relationship with trade unions. According to a Business Day report, it means health authorities such as provincial health departments will be able to move personnel from one facility to another, to quarantine sites, to another town, or even across provincial boundaries.
The report says while in line with steps taken in many countries hard-hit by COVID-19 to ensure they make the best use of their human resources, the move is likely to stoke anger among unions already smouldering over the government’s recent decision to freeze wages.
The report says the regulations were published the day before the start of the Easter long weekend and seem to have slipped under the radar. None of the key unions representing health-care personnel working in the state sector appeared to be aware of the new powers granted to their employers. "We were definitely not consulted," said Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, South Africa’s biggest doctor organisation.
The regulations, which were published in terms of the Disaster Management Act, aim to speed up the recruitment and redeployment of key personnel for combating COVID-19. They are in line with Public Service and Administration Department regulations regarding emergency recruitment options, and apply solely to people employed by the state, said Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja.Full Business Day report