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The protection of healthcare workers, the heroes in battling this pandemic, cannot be compromised, says the writer. (Getty Images)
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Health is a basic human right. It is non-negotiable and it is up to all of us in society to hold one another accountable to protect the welfare of our people, especially the most vulnerable, writes Matome Kganakga.
Covid-19 persistently reminds us that we are in this pandemic together; while we are all affected some communities are more vulnerable and should be prioritised as the lockdown regulations are relaxed aligned with Alert Level 4 announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa recently.
It is commendable so far that the South African government is making progress in increasing the rate of contract tracing, screening and testing, although it still lags behind the set targets.
It is worth waiting to see if the Gauteng Health Department can reach the five million people tested by the end of June as it has committed.
With the reopening of the economy since 1 May, it is worrisome to us as civil society to learn from Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize that more than 500 health workers tested positive with about 26 hospitalised and at least two fatalities (at the time of writing).
The protection of healthcare workers, the heroes in battling this pandemic, cannot be compromised.
Without healthcare workers, there is reduced capacity to respond to Covid-19; as they are the first and the last line of defence.
The other concern involves isolated incidents of companies receiving employees without adequate policies on mitigation of Covid-19, insufficient or no personal protective equipment (PPE), special separation, frequency of cleaning touched surfaces and providing hand hygiene facilities while expecting workers to be fully productive.
Observing the global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed to flatten the curve, leaders or managers have a duty at such a crucial time not to overlook the basics such as PPE?
It is disturbing that having contained the Covid-19 pandemic by timely and rapidly implementing the National State of Disaster which included a nationwide lockdown, which provided adequate time to prepare the healthcare system capacity and community-based measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, making it possible for considerations of reopening the economy, private sector and public sector leaders could be found wanting when it comes to the protection of the health of their most important asset, the employees.
As the Covid-19 Front, we call on the private sector to further assist government in creating sufficient capacity to not only ramp up screening, contact tracing and testing but also to provide equitable access to healthcare including for all sick and vulnerable citizens and to continue the reduction cost of testing and related commodities, including PPE.
Affordability should never be the means to exclude or prohibit citizens from accessing healthcare services.
We are all aware that some companies in the retail pharmaceutical sector have been implicated in profiteering from the Covid-19 pandemic affecting South Africans, especially the indigent, by overpricing the cost of their supplies and medicines.
What pharmacies should be doing is ensuring that chronic medication is available to as many patients as possible, and where possible, dispensing it through smart delivery mechanisms.
The manufacturing of PPE also opens opportunities for small and medium enterprises - especially those in the townships and rural areas - to be brought into the economic fold as suppliers of face masks and distributors of sanitisers, among others.
By looking after workers, including the community health workers who are critical to the frontline delivery machinery, we will expedite the screening and testing which in turn will contribute to flatten the curve.
The Covid-19 Front will continue advocate for the right to health, through a coherent and comprehensive multi-sectoral approach inclusive of government, private sector and civil society that includes the right of choice to Traditional, Allied, Complementary and Alternative Health Services.
Health is a basic human right.
It is non-negotiable and it is up to all of us in society to hold one another accountable to protect the welfare of our people, especially the most vulnerable.
We all have a responsibility to keep on setting the bar higher and pushing for universal access to health.
- Dr Kganakga is the Head of Contact Tracing, Screening and Testing at the Community Constituency Covid-19 Front
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