Community health workers march in East London

They want to be in-sourced and they want proper personal protective equipment

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Community Health Workers and NUPSAW leaders march to the health department’s office in East London. They are demanding to be employed permanently by the Eastern Cape Department of Health. Photo: Johnnie Isaac

Scores of Community Health Workers affiliated to the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) are demanding that they be employed permanently by the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

This call was highlighted once again at a march to the health offices in East London on Friday. The union has accused the provincial department of exploiting the care workers who are often forced to survive on month-to-month contracts.

NUPSAW’s Eastern Cape secretary Mzikazi Nkata said community workers play a critical role in primary health in poor communities.

“They walk through informal settlements and townships to track and trace TB and HIV treatment defaulters. Government is now threatening not to renew their contracts. Department officials have been going to various regions of the Eastern Cape, threatening the community health workers that they won’t have jobs after the end of March. This is why we are marching,” said Nkata.

Nkata said community health workers did not have some of the benefits afforded to government employees.

“Some of them are retiring after years of service but with nothing to show for their labour. This is driving many into depression,” said Nkata.

The group’s memorandum, read by Nkata, calls for recognition and legitimacy of community health workers in the province. They also demanded proper protective wear such as gloves and uniforms. They also wanted assurances for their safety as they work in poor communities and areas with high rates of violence and crime.

But the main demand was for the workers to be in-sourced by the health department, in order to “earn decent salaries which have improved their living conditions”.

The memorandum was received by the Buffalo City Department of Health District Manager Mkhululi Nkohla. He promised to respond to representatives of NUPSAW within seven working days.

Provincial department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said that matters raised in the group’s petition are currently before the National Bargaining Chamber. Kupelo also said the department had bought uniforms for all community health workers.

TOPICS:  Health Labour

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