Call to protect healthcare workers as hospitals and clinics battle amid widespread protests

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KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has called for the protection of healthcare workers.
KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has called for the protection of healthcare workers.
Darren Stewart, Gallo Images

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane has urged the public to protect and enable healthcare professionals to get to work – including nurses, doctors and ambulance operators - so that they can continue with the critical task of saving people’s lives.

This comes as healthcare facilities across the province buckle under pressure due to widespread community protests which have resulted in the blockading of key arterial routes, making public mobility difficult.

The KZN Health Department said a number of hospitals, community health Centres and clinics across KwaZulu-Natal have been operating on skeletal staff, with many nurses, doctors, allied health workers and support staff unable to report for work due to the blockades, as well as lack of public transport.

Many who were working during the night shift last night also could not go home on Monday morning.

Simelane said the health department could not afford a situation where lives are lost just because healthcare workers could not get to work.

“Those who are protesting need to realise that by blocking health workers or ambulances from doing their job, they could be placing the lives of their own relatives in jeopardy.”

“There are scores of people in our hospitals who are fighting for their lives, who need to be attended to by our doctors and nurses as a matter of urgency. Some are in critical condition, in ICU, while others are in labour and need to go into theatre,” she said.

Patients who were due to undergo elective surgery and those with minor ailments were told not to come to hospitals, until the situation returns to normal. 

In some instances, vehicles were barred from delivering much-needed oxygen that was intended for use by patients battling Covid – 19 and other ailments.

The protests have all but put a stop to the province’s all-important Covid– 19 vaccination programme.

In Howick, an ambulance was burnt last night, while another was attacked with rocks in Marriannhill.

There have also been reports of delays with the collection of mortal remains, as Forensic Pathology Services battle to reach scenes where people have passed away. They are also unable to collect bodies from clinics that do not have mortuaries.

“All over the world, in every crisis situation, there must always be a way to accommodate and insulate health professionals. We are therefore pleading with the protesters and the general public at large not to interfere with health workers,” said Simelane.

The unrest has also affected the functioning of the health department’s key 24-hour Provincial Health Operations Centre, which serves as a link between it and the public. However, the public can still contact the department by calling 031 480 3718.

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