DA calls on Department of Health to urgently source protective gear for health workers

In light of disturbing reports from healthcare workers across the country and members of the public about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline health personnel, it is now critical that the South African government develops local capacity for the production of critical equipment.

I have written to the Minister of Health, Zwele Mkhize, to recommend that  local manufactures need to be brought on board and given a brief on what needs to be produced and what the South Africa Bureau of Standards (SABS) will be looking for in approval of these products. This process must be led by the Health team in consultation with other ministers and industries in the Inter-ministerial task team.

Healthcare professionals are making the greatest sacrifice by serving the health system at this critical time of the outbreak of Covid-19 in South Africa. These are unprecedented times that require all sectors to work with the South African government in waging a fight against this pandemic.

In doing so, we cannot endanger our healthcare workers during this time. We need to ensure that they are sufficiently protected while treating South Africans that need medical attention.

We are aware that the shortage of PPE is a global phenomenon and South Africa may not be on top of the pecking order in obtaining these much-needed supplies. The South African government needs to urgently explore alternative ways of meeting this demand.

Following a successful application by the DA to have medical and critical supplies be subjected to zero duty upon arrival on our shores, now is the time to act urgently. The Department of Health must expand their network of international suppliers and make use of this opportunity to source these products.

The Health team must understand the extent of the shortages in each province and each district. It should be on the basis of this information, that urgent stock is sent to areas that need it the most and that need it most urgently.

Based on modeling that has been done and international trends of this pandemic, there is still be to a sharp rise in infections which will place tremendous pressure on the health system. Ensuring critical equipment will help us get through that phase.

The Minister of Health can no longer just rely on the various provinces to source their own equipment. This effort needs to be augmented from the national department of health to ensure that we do not run out entirely of PPE and endanger much-needed staff members.

The DA remains committed to supporting the efforts of the South Africans government and the health response to this pandemic. That is why we take our role seriously in bringing to the attention of the Minister and his team challenges that are unfolding in the various provinces and workable solutions to solve them urgently. We cannot afford to delay in matters like this. We need decisive action.