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SA Medical Association calls for 'urgent' intervention in Eastern Cape

The SA Medical Association has called for urgent intervention in the Eastern Cape as the province battles to deal with the surge in Covid-19 infections.
The SA Medical Association has called for urgent intervention in the Eastern Cape as the province battles to deal with the surge in Covid-19 infections.
Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai

The SA Medical Association (Sama) has criticised the Eastern Cape health department for its “severe” lack of leadership as coronavirus cases in the province continue to climb.

According to stats released by the health department on Monday, the Eastern Cape accounted for 1,217 of the new 2,302 Covid-19 infections confirmed across the country between Sunday and Monday.

The figures showed the province accounted for 52.8% of new infections since Sunday, and accounted for more than half the deaths related to Covid-19 in the same period. Since Sunday, 58 deaths have been confirmed. Of these, 32 were in the Eastern Cape (55%).

The association said it was also concerned about the “inadequate” number of doctors and nurses in the province.

“The Eastern Cape department of health declares the number of infections is rising again, but does not have the funding to recruit adequate numbers of ‘foot soldiers’,” it said.

“In addition to recruiting and retaining qualified doctors and nurses, there is a dire need to offer support to these critical health workers by providing psychologists and social workers to debrief them on a regular basis.

“Added to this is an inability among acting heads of hospitals to keep staff morale at acceptable levels.”

The lack of funded posts, the association said, put a “significant” strain on doctors.

“Health-care workers are exhausted, stressed and frustrated. This situation seems at odds with what  government is saying about the coronavirus in the province,” Sama said.

“The fact that many decisions have to be made centrally at the provincial cost containment centre in Bisho also means hospitals and their CEOs are not able to respond quickly to staffing, equipment and other needs.

“Urgent decisions can take months to be made at the central level, leaving hospitals without the ability to respond to their own situations.”

The association called for “urgent” intervention in the Eastern Cape as the situation had already moved beyond a “critical” point.

“Unless this intervention is made with sufficient political will to ensure a successful turnaround, the problems with health care in the province will undoubtedly multiply,” it said.

It also called on doctors to assist at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth, which is the country's Covid-19 epicentre, even if this was “on a short-term basis” because of the “growing crisis at this hospital, and throughout the province”.

According to Sama, Livingstone Hospital has not had a permanent CEO for the past three years.


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