Keith Cloete: Western Cape needs ‘to provide Covid relief for healthcare workers and their families’

By Suné Payne 12 January 2021

(Illustrative image | Sources: Flickr / Rawpixel)

As Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape slowly start to stabilise, the province is worried about the impact of the virus on frontline healthcare workers.

There have been 8,088 confirmed Covid-19 cases among healthcare workers in the Western Cape, with 92 deaths recorded in the group, provincial health head of department Dr Keith Cloete said on Tuesday, 12 January. 

Cloete briefed the media, alongside Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, about the current status of Covid-19 in the province.

“Our healthcare workers have, and continue, to face significant physical and emotional strain… we need to provide relief for them and their families,” said Cloete. Currently, there are 1,029 active cases among healthcare workers in the province, comprised of: 

  • 98 doctors; 
  • 442 nurses;
  • 23 radiographers; 
  • 7 pharmacists; and 
  • 459 cases among porters, security personnel, admin staff, suppliers, cleaners and clerical staff.

Most of these cases are at Tygerberg Hospital (151 active cases), the Southern/Western subdistrict of the Cape metro (230 active cases) and the Cape Winelands (131 active cases).

This comes at a time when the province is entering the peak of the second wave of infections. However, cases in the province are showing early signs of stabilisation, which is another key factor in the peak of infections – where cases, deaths and hospitalisations increase but then start to stabilise before flattening.  

“Hospitals are under severe pressure,” said Cloete.

Mbombo said Covid-19 had a psychological impact on healthcare workers, and employees and employers in other health-related fields. “Even if staff are not dying, their families are affected,” she said. “We have to protect our healthcare workers.” 

By 1pm on Tuesday, the province had recorded a total of 242,450 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 8,482 deaths. Currently, there are 41,285 active cases in the province, with 192,683 recoveries. 

Turning to vaccines, Cloete said: “The Western Cape Department of Health is focusing on readiness to implement the vaccination programme in the province.”

He said 100,000 healthcare workers would be prioritised for the first phase of vaccinations in the Western Cape. These include healthcare workers in the private and public sector, care workers, community healthcare workers and health scientists. This follows national Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize’s announcement that healthcare workers would be first in line for vaccinations. 

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Cloete said the vaccination programme would have three key frameworks: science, ethics and implementation. Vaccines would not be given to children or pregnant women as studies had not been undertaken in these groups. 

When asked if vaccines would be mandatory for healthcare workers, Cloete said “people have to voluntarily decide” whether they would take vaccines. His preferred position would be to provide healthcare workers with all the needed information “to make an informed decision”. 

Winde urged people to play their part in flattening the Covid-19 curve as they return to work and school over the next few weeks. 

“If you know you are sick, please stay at home,” he said. DM


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