PPE corruption shows health workers were never a priority, says nursing union
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) on Friday said health-care workers were owed an apology by those involved in the multimillion-rand PPE tender corruption.
In a statement, the union said: “Health-care workers are owed an apology, explanation and a recourse from both government and implicated companies over this malaise, because many are still feeling the hard knock-on effects of infection while family members of those who died have lost breadwinners and parents permanently.
“Those companies who supplied substandard-quality PPE have set health-care workers up for failure and placed their lives on the line. We call for the monies that have been retrieved successfully to be returned [so they can be used] to buy quality PPE to safeguard health-care workers as the country has been warned of a possible third wave of Covid-19.”
Denosa said the fact that corruption of this nature was able to be carried out showed that the lives and wellbeing of health-care workers were never a priority.
In a media briefing held earlier on Friday, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said 2,556 PPE contracts had been awarded through the state institutions. A sum of R13.3bn involved in these contracts is now the subject of investigation.
“[This] is the clearest indication that health-care workers were never the priority to protect. The infection of over 43,000 health-care workers, and the subsequent death of more than 436 of them, could well be closely linked to the supply of substandard quality of products which the investigation has unearthed so far, which vindicates many health-care workers who complained to us of poor quality of PPE at the time,” the union added.
In December, it was revealed that scores of health-care workers were supplied with substandard KN95 masks which were later found to have failed safety tests, offering little protection against the virus.
Denosa called on officials to consider paying health-care workers “danger pay”.
“[We] reiterate [our] 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 health-care workers a Covid-19 risk allowance as a way to keep them in the country because other countries will become an attractive place of employment for them soon,”
The union stressed that it was willing to take action against the government if its calls were not heeded.
“Given the seriousness of this to health-care workers, Denosa cannot count out the possibility of a class action.”