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'Our health care workers are being sent into war without any weapons': Numsa

The general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA Irvin Jim. File photo.
The general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA Irvin Jim. File photo.
Image: Sowetan / Mduduzi Ndzingi

Trade union Numsa has expressed solidarity with Nehawu, which has asked the labour court to compel the health department to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In court papers filed on Friday, public sector union Nehawu’s general secretary Zola Saphetha said their attempts to first engage with health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize over the shortage of protective equipment were ignored.

They now want the court to urgently direct him to engage with them in an effort to ensure all health workers have sufficient protection against the coronavirus.

“The failure of the government to ensure that employees render their service in the least risky way is inconsistent with the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation,” Saphetha said in the court papers.

The matter is expected to be heard on Tuesday at 10am.

In a statement on Saturday, Numsa said it stood in solidarity with all health care workers in SA and demanded that the government urgently intervene to ensure that they have everything they need to beat the coronavirus pandemic.

It described the shortage of protective equipment as “deeply worrying”.

“Health care workers are our soldiers on the front line and they are literally being sent into war without any weapons. It is shocking and unacceptable that to date the concerns raised by workers’ have not been adequately addressed,” said Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim.

“This is worsened by the fact that the public health system has collapsed. Our public clinics and hospitals are underfunded and drastically under-resourced. Our hospitals lack basic equipment, medicines and suffer severe staff shortages and they struggle to serve the community on a day-to-day basis. The Covid-19 epidemic will definitely worsen this situation,” he added.

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