The People’s Health Movement South Africa (PHM-SA) hosted a webinar on 28 August 2020 titled ‘Our experiences in the fight against COVID-19’ where they untangled the issues affecting Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) in this time of COVID-19. Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) were among groups who attended, and there were also representatives from CHWs from Zambia and Uganda. The panellists shared their struggles as health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the speakers was Thembi Radebe, a CHW from Mpumalanga province. Radebe had concerns over the lack of personal protective equipments (PPEs). Radebe also raised concerns over low wages, that are not enough to sustain their livelihoods. Nomthandazo Mhlongo from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) said the KZN Department of Health exploited them to a point where they ended up going to schools to screen for COVID-19, leaving their designated areas and patients. The department threatened to fire them if they failed to carry out this tasks.
The CHWs worry about not having a victory at the end because they are not united. They came to the conclusion that CHWs differ in terms of work scope and recognition. Bongekile, a CHW from Chiawelo Clinic in Soweto, further explained how Gauteng works, explaining how they had campaigns to promote the COVID-19 screenings in Chiawelo.
Siyamthanda Dastile branch secretary of TAC, based in Cape Town, encouraged CHWs to join and form forums. Dastile said forums were the best way in mobilising and organising, referring to his experience and research.
Most CHWs in other provinces are still under Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who continue to exploit them. CHWs are by far the backbone of all the Departments of Health and they deserve to be treated well in all provinces. There will be a follow up meeting where CHWs will share more experiences and progress in finding ways to win the battle.
This article was submitted on 28 August 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.