Parliament, Saturday, 15 May 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Health received presentations on plans to start with the roll-out of Phase 2 Covid-19 vaccination programme in the Northern Cape. However, the committee is concerned by high risk factor caused by capacity challenges within the public healthcare system in the province.

“We are concerned that the province reported that they have just about 2400 nurses to service the entire province. While we welcome the assurance that this represents a net increase as the province only had 1700 nurses last year, we are concerned that this might negatively impact the ability to effectively implement the clearly planned vaccination programme,” said Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the Chairperson of the committee.

Another problem which concerns the committee is that four of the five districts are currently led by Acting District Directors who will be at the forefront of the implementation of the roll-out 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 roll-out 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.

The assurance by the provincial department of health that its talks with major network operators to ensure registration of poor people that might not have smart phones or data to register, are at an advanced stage was welcomed by the committee. Furthermore, the committee welcomed the provincial department of health’s utilisation of local media to communicate processes of vaccination in the province and encouraged it to maintain that strategy.

Regarding storage and availability of vaccines in far flung areas, the committee wanted clarity on the availability of vaccines and measures in place to mitigate undesired consequences as a result of inadequate refrigeration capacity in those 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.

Meanwhile, the committee has raised concern over the alarming increase of Covid-19 infection 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,” Dr Dhlomo said.

The committee will today visit a medical depot in Kimberley as well as the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital to assess their state of readiness.


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