Health department unprepared while CHWs mobilise community to fight coronavirus


On 22 March 2020, Thembisa Regional Hospital hosted a CHWs training session facilitated by the Department of Health (DoH) to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The training session was attended by the Gauteng Community Health Care Forum (the Forum) chairperson, Patricia Makhubo, and was about basic information on the coronavirus.

Makhubo shared with Karibu! that on the day of the training, at first the CHWs were told transport had not been organised and that they should go home. Then, when many were already on their way home, and some already at home, the carers were called back again, as transport had now been organised.

“We also noticed that there were no sanitisers at the venue, no demonstration equipment and the facilitator kept on referring to the script she had in her hand. The DoH seems short of protective clothing and equipment. Some CHWs are not given masks, sanitisers, gloves or aprons, only professional nurses receive these things.”

According to Makhubo, before the DoH acted to prevent the spread of the pandemic, CHWs across Gauteng were already engaged in an awareness campaign to conscientise the community about the fight against coronavirus. “But the DoH only recognises us when it wants to use us to handle big crises.”

“[The]…DoH mentioned that they’ll pay for hospital bills [for CHWs who get sick]”, Makhubo said. The Health Department has also stated that CHWs who come in contact with a COVID-19 infected person will be quarantined for 14 days after which they will be tested and treated if positive. Compensation and special leave are possible during that period, but they must apply to qualify.

These are only some of the benefits rightly owed to CHWs, and this is why, now more than ever, CHWs must be recognised as permanent employees of the Health Department, so that they are able to access these benefits and so that they are able to keep their patients and communities safe against coronavirus.

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