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Parliament worried about Northern Cape's ability to roll out Covid-19 vaccines

15 May 2021 - 10:43 By nivashni nair
The portfolio committee on health was expected to visit a medical depot in Kimberley and the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital to assess their state of readiness on Saturday.
The portfolio committee on health was expected to visit a medical depot in Kimberley and the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital to assess their state of readiness on Saturday.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

Capacity challenges within the Northern Cape's public healthcare system may be “a high risk factor” in the rollout of Phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination programme,” parliament's portfolio committee on health said on Saturday.  

The committee was expected to visit a medical depot in Kimberley and the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital to assess their state of readiness on Saturday.

“We are concerned that the province reported that they have just about 2,400 nurses to service the entire province. While we welcome the assurance that this represents a net increase as the province only had 1,700 nurses last year, we are concerned that this might negatively impact the ability to effectively implement the clearly planned vaccination programme,” said committee chair Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

The committee is concerned that four of the five districts are currently led by acting district directors, who will be at the forefront of the implementation of the rollout of the vaccination programme.  

“The committee has welcomed the commitment by the private sector for the provision of its healthcare facilities for the purposes of the  rollout of the programme in the province. The committee believes that this will mitigate any challenge of shortages of public healthcare facilities that might arise in the province.

“Also, the committee welcomes a plan for an integrated communications system to ensure that facilities with low uptake of vaccines will share their stock with facilities in close proximity to them with higher uptake to ensure vaccination of a maximum number of people,” Dhlomo said.

The committee was given an assurance by the provincial department of health that its talks with major network operators to ensure registration of poor people that might not have smartphones or data to register were at an advanced stage.

The committee also wanted clarity on the availability of vaccines and measures in place “to mitigate undesired consequences as a result of inadequate refrigeration capacity in rural areas”.  

“The committee remains of the view that none of the challenges are insurmountable and it believes that they require innovative ideas to ensure that vaccines are delivered to where poor people live in the province,” Dhlomo said.

The committee also raised concern over the increase of Covid-19 infections in the province, which is reported to be increasing at a rate of 67% weekly.

“Of major concern is the Frances Baard district which accounts for the largest share of increases, with the district registering 50% of the new cases.  

“The committee raised concerns with the information that the upsurge is due to non-adherence to Covid-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions, with a cluster linked to workplaces, funerals and other social gatherings. We urge the people of the province to work together with government to stop the spread of the virus by adhering to health protocols,” said Dhlomo. 

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