Nurses' union: 'SIU probes make it clear healthcare workers never the priority to protect'

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Denosa has commented on the SIU PPE probe.
Denosa has commented on the SIU PPE probe.
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  • The SIU received a total of 189 corruption allegations related to PPE procurement.
  • Denosa says all money recovered from the investigations should be used to procure quality PPE for healthcare workers. 
  • The FF+ has called for the probes to be expedited. 

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) says the report by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) that R13.3 billion of personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement is subject to investigation is disappointing - and makes it clear that healthcare workers were "never the priority to protect".

The nursing union was reacting to the SIU's report delivered on Friday, which outlined investigations that had been finalised, as well as the outcomes of some of those investigations.

A total of R30.7 billion was spent by state institutions between April and November 2020, of which R13.3 billion was subject to SIU investigations, head of the unit Andy Mothibi revealed during a briefing held in Pretoria. 

News24 reported that Mothibi lamented the "insatiable pursuit of self-enrichment" by officials in all spheres of government, which was revealed in the investigations

Denosa said the government and implicated companies owed healthcare workers an apology and an explanation, as well as recourse, because many were still feeling the effects of infections, while the families of those who had died lost breadwinners and parents. 

It added that companies, who provided workers with substandard PPEs, set the sector up for failure, placing many people's lives on the line.

The union said:

"The infection of over 43 000 healthcare workers, and the subsequent death of more than 436, could well be closely linked to the supply of substandard quality of products, which the investigation has unearthed so far, which vindicates many healthcare workers who complained to us of poor quality of PPE at the time when healthcare workers needed the best protection in the face of the deadliest virus that has killed over two million people globally."

Risk allowance conscience

Denosa wants the money that is recovered to be used to buy quality PPE,  to protect healthcare workers in the wake of warnings of a third wave.

"Denosa still reiterates its call for the conscience of the president, the minister of health and the parliamentary portfolio committee on health as an oversight structure to consider paying healthcare workers a Covid-19 risk allowance as a way to keep them in the country because other countries will become attractive places of employment for them soon. 

"Given the seriousness of this to healthcare workers, Denosa cannot count out the possibility of a class action - and, as a result, reserves its right." 

ALSO READ | Eastern Cape apologises for 'confusion' over jobs of 625 nurses, promises to hire them

Meanwhile, FF+ said the SIU probes must be expedited and decisive action taken against people found guilty. 

The party added it was also noteworthy that no high-profile politicians were implicated in the irregularities so far and only officials were subjected to investigations. 

FF+  said the SIU's work in probing the alleged corruption was already costing taxpayers more than the money that has been recovered so far, adding that the wheels of justice were turning "much too slowly".

"The SIU must not hesitate to thoroughly investigate politicians and prosecute them accordingly if they are guilty. The FF+ will keep a close eye on the progress of the investigation. South Africans expect to see justice prevail and, thus far, the SIU has not been meeting these expectations," the party said.

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