Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has cautioned hospital management to efficiently managed supply and distribution chains for personal protective equipment so frontline healthcare workers are at all times safe from COVID-19 infection.

He also urged open lines of communication between management and labour unions so issues faced by staff members are resolved speedily.

Mkhize was speaking during a visit to the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa on Tuesday.

“Management and labour are a very important team to be able to deal with issues. There must a be a free-flow of information and an easy atmosphere for discussion. Sometimes it becomes tense, but the real issue is that you confront problems and solve them,” he said to hospital management present.

“What has been important is to create occupational health and safety committees – a platform where labour will pick up concerns from a member who is worried and raise it with management.

The protection of staff is very important: It is the concern of management, the labour movement, government and everyone out there. It is something that we shouldn’t be fighting about, we must just always check on what’s the problems and close the gaps.”

Mkhize said that while there is adequate stock of personal protective equipment, there are sometimes gaps in the distribution chain of these items.

“What we found is that we have adequate supplies of PPEs at this point…but the distribution is sometimes where the devil is. From the warehouse to the hospital storeroom, to the ward to the individual, that chain needs to be tightened. The majority of tension that comes from labour is anxiety from the staff who feel vulnerable,” he said.

“It is not that people don’t want to work, their issue is that if the solider in the forefront is worried about confronting the adversaries, you can’t win that battle. They must be the ones to say bring it on, we are going to deal with it.

The key is to make sure our staff, our nurses, our general workers, our clinicians must feel confident because they are well trained, they are well motivated, and they are well protected.”

Mkhize also warned hospital management about the surge in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng.

“What has arisen in the past week or so has been the need not only to reticulate oxygen pipes into every bed because field beds are going to be more useful if they have oxygen piping getting to all patients. Any oxygenation is going to be one of our major weapon in this case,” he said.

“The surge is expected to be high in Gauteng province. Eastern Cape is also rising and KwaZulu-Natal is beginning to have more numbers per day than Eastern Cape. That was the original projection, that Gauteng will have the highest surge, followed by KZN, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.”