The government has embarked on a rapid recruitment drive to secure health-care workers through a shortened seven-day recruitment process to enhance capacity in the sector, premier Oscar Mabuyane said.
Mabuyane was speaking during his weekly media briefing on Tuesday, giving an update of the work being done by government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also warned that despite the fact new Covid-19 cases in the Eastern Cape were rising rapidly, the full might of the storm was still to come.
The surge in infections is expected to double over the next six weeks.
The premier’s warning comes as the provincial health system buckles under the strain of 3,534 health workers testing positive. So far 56 have lost their lives to Covid-19.
Mabuyane said the surge in infections in August would put the “already strained health system” under more pressure, particularly on the availability of critical care beds.
“This month of July has been a mixed bag of successes and setbacks in our fight against the pandemic.
“It is a month where we had a steady increase of 2,000 cases per day. But we also had a ‘slow burn’ rate in the last two weeks of this month.”
He said it was critical that communities continued to adhere to the universal protocols of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.
“Our forecast is that August is the centre of the Covid-19 storm. All of us need to buckle up because we are about to enter the toughest time of our lifetime.”
Infections are expected to decline in September, he said.
“October is the month when we expect to see a stabilisation in daily increases, and this will offer some relief to our pressured health systems.”
Mabuyane said of the 7,652 posts to be filled through the Covid-19 relief grant, a total of 6,963 had been filled and in the coming week HR [officials] would conduct ongoing training, communication and information sessions with employees.
He said a recruitment plan to focus on the staffing of the Volkswagen SA Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni field hospital would also be finalised this week.
Mabuyane said a field hospital manager had been sourced from the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), a global health organisation that aims to save lives and reduce the burden of disease in low-and middle-income countries.
Turning to concerns the provincial government had, Mabuyane said the increase in the number of health-care workers testing positive for Covid-19 was a worry despite the improved efforts to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) was available to front-line staff.
“Our health-care workers are severely exposed to Covid-19 at work, at home and in transit. To date more than 3,584 health workers have tested positive and 56 have lost their lives.
“What this means is that now 3,478 workers who have tested positive are either fully recovered or on the road to full recovery and we will have them back in the health system soon.”
He said an additional R2.5bn had been allocated to the department of health.
Of that, he said R325m would be allocated to the department of education to appoint temporary teachers to replace the 2,278 teachers who could not be in the classroom as they had comorbidities that placed them at risk should they contract the virus.
Mabuyane said R16m had been allocated for mobile connectivity for teachers and pupils with a priority placed on grades 6 to 11 during the pandemic.
He said R12m had been allocated for Cuban doctors and nurses. — Additional reporting Daily Dispatch