In a recent address President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that 10 000 Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) will be deployed across the country to “conduct door-to-door screening in our most vulnerable communities.” According to the President, CHWs “will be conducting screening and not tests: the field workers will not conduct any tests but will refer any persons suspected of having Coronavirus to the nearest clinic or hospital.” But even if CHWs are not deployed to conduct COVID-19 tests directly, they are still exposed to the dangers of being on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus.
Thabisa Mfikwe is a Community Healthcare Worker (CHW), and a member of the Gauteng Community Health Care Forum, currently working at Carletonville Central Clinic (on the West Rand of Gauteng). Much of her work is recording patients’ vital signs, as part of the Integrated Chronic Diseases Management model being implemented in the Health Department. Mfikwe’s daily work requires her to be in direct contact with her patients, sometimes without masks and gloves. Some of CHWs have to retrieve and update files, so are also directly in contact with their patients. “COVID-19 is a danger, but the Department of Health is taking this virus very lightly, and risking the lives of people.”
Thenjiwe Zotsha, a CHW and admin clerk at the same clinic shared with Karibu! how CHWs are mistreated. “The attitude of the nurses towards the CHWs is really disrespectful. CHWs are also workers and they must be treated us such, especially in the hard times of COVID-19.” According to Zotsha, sanitisers are only provided to certain departments but at the security entrance there are no sanitisers, masks or gloves.
This article was written on 1 April 2020.
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