Gauteng health department official collect samples during a door-to-door Covid-19 coronavirus testing drive in Yeoville, Johannesburg, April 3 2020. Picture: MARCO LONGARI / AFP
Gauteng health department official collect samples during a door-to-door Covid-19 coronavirus testing drive in Yeoville, Johannesburg, April 3 2020. Picture: MARCO LONGARI / AFP

The DA has launched an online service to link local manufacturers of masks, gowns, gloves and ventilators with national and provincial governments as the country battles to ensure that health-care facilities and workers have access to the crucial life-saving equipment.

The unprecedented nature of the coronavirus outbreak has led to a global spike in the need for medical protective equipment and ventilators, which some Covid-19 patients require to remain alive. Various countries, such as the US, Germany and India, have moved to place an export ban on medical protective clothing to curb shortages.  

In SA, the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) has led to a clash between unions and the government.

The DA says it has received thousands of offers from local manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of the life-saving equipment who are willing to work with the government to deal with the local shortage, and have requested ways in which they can be in touch with the departments of trade and industry and health to supply the kits.

Government’s response to this pandemic has largely been commendable, however, if we are to beat Covid-19 then we need to make sure that we protect our front-line staff in process. They are our greatest resource. That is why the DA is playing its part in these efforts to ensure that we make a contribution in this regard,” DA MPs Siviwe Gwarube and Dean Macpherson said in a joint statement.

The DA said it will again write to health minister Zweli Mkhize and the department’s director-general to bring the online platform to their attention.

At the weekend trade union federation Cosatu and its affiliate, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), condemned “the misleading media statement issued by the department of health”.

“In the statement the minister of health, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, reports that ‘we have engaged the unions … on the matter of personal protective equipment’. We want to inform our members, workers and the public that is far from the truth. The minister did not engage Cosatu or its affiliate Nehawu on the matter of PPEs,” the unions said.

“We are beginning to doubt that the minister is aware of the magnitude of the problem we are facing and the danger the non-compliance to the Occupational Health and Safety Act by his department has on the lives of our members, their families and their communities.

“The loss of workers through being exposed to the virus because of the lack of PPEs further strains our already overstretched workforce. It is for these reasons that we need to protect workers as we need all hands on deck.”

The health department did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za