WATCH | Prioritise PPE over shareholder payouts, #Care4Carers tells private healthcare sector

  • #Care4Carers campaigners staged a call to action outside the head offices of SA's private healthcare groups.
  • They asked that shareholder payouts be suspended until 2022; it should rather be used to contribute to the Covid-19 fight. 
  • Netcare received the memorandum and assured the campaigners they would engage on the matter. 

A group of nurses, community healthcare workers and members of civil organisations this week staged a call to action outside the head offices of South Africa's private healthcare groups.

Their primary call was on the private healthcare sector to provide monetary support for regular, free Covid-19 testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

The group also asked that shareholder payouts be suspended until the year 2022.

Instead, the coalition behind the campaign said the shareholder money should be put towards the improvement of working conditions for healthcare workers, who are facing PPE shortages and poor access to healthcare as they cannot afford medical aid.

Oxfam South Africa, Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU), National Union of Care Workers of South Africa (NUCWOSA), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) and are all part of the coalition. 

Basani Baloyi, the inequality programme lead at Oxfam South Africa, said:

In this time of crisis, we must prioritise the health and well-being of all South Africans, not just those who are wealthy.

The #Care4Carers campaigners said the private sector could afford to stall shareholder payouts in order to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 infections among healthcare workers.

The call comes after more than 200 healthcare workers lost their lives to Covid-19.

And, while the coalition acknowledges the responsibility to provide adequate PPE and testing lies with the national government, they have charged the private sector with neglecting their country duty during a time of crisis.

"Healthcare workers have sacrificed a lot during this pandemic," said Ngqabutho Mpofu, adding that the private sector needs to make sacrifices too.

protest, healthcare, netcare
A healthcare worker kneels before stuffed body bags outside the Netcare head office in Sandton on 22 October. The #Care4Carers campaigners said the bag symbolise the colleagues they lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The #Care4Carers campaigners set up stretcher beds and stuffed body bags outside the Netcare head offices to symbolise the colleagues who lost their lives during the pandemic.

They said their decision to stage a call to action came after they sent a letter to private healthcare groups on 9 September.

"The #Care4Carers campaign is an ongoing campaign that recognises that healthcare workers, nurses and community healthcare workers are the life support of households, society and the economy.

"Key to achieving this goal is to ensure that healthcare workers are fairly treated in recognition of their human rights and to enable them to provide a better healthcare for all," the letter reads.

After acknowledging receipt of the letter, the group did not receive a response to their call. This prompted their decision to hand-deliver a memorandum.

Fikile Dikolomela-Lengene, the deputy president of YNITU said:

It cannot go unnoticed, the loss of lives that we have of healthcare workers, who came to uphold their oath in saving lives.

"We are calling on the private sector to be a team player and to join fellow South Africans in putting life before profit," said Baloyi.

Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba, group human resources and transformation director at Netcare, met the group to receive the memorandum and committed to engage with the campaigners.

Ndzwayiba said he was unable to comment on the demands made by the #Care4Carers campaigners, but assured them that their memorandum will be considered, and that they could expect proper engagement on its content.

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