Thursday | 19 March | 2020
Following the announcement of a national state of disaster on Sunday 15 March by President Ramaphosa, rumours abound. The line between fake news and facts is becoming blurred and it is getting difficult to distinguish between them.
Solidarity views the welfare and safety of our members as a priority. However, it is not only important for employees to be aware of their rights regarding health and safety in the workplace, but also that employers should be aware of their responsibility in ensuring such a work environment.
The information below has been compiled by the Professional Guild for Health Practitioners and serves as an aid for both employees and employers regarding occupational health and safety in the workplace, especially in light of the coronavirus, which is causing great concern and giving rise to many questions.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases is the most important role-player in the fight against the virus and may be contacted as follows: –
- For any clinical, patient-related enquiries the Institute may be contacted at 082 883 9920 / 066 562 4021.
- Patients or other members of the public may dial 0800 029 999.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 stipulates that every employer is obliged to provide and maintain safe and healthy working conditions, equipment and systems as far as reasonably possible for all employees and to provide information, training and supervision for these purposes. Employees may refuse to render service in cases where they are of the opinion that an employer is not committed to ensuring the health and safety of employees.
In the case of the Covid-19 coronavirus, employers should as far as is reasonably possible take the following steps:
- – Supply full information to employees concerning the origin, spread, diagnosis, treatment and reporting of the virus.
- – Give training for handling the virus, specifically regarding infectiousness and combating the virus as well as the use of protective clothes.
- – Give supervision in the form of experts in the field of communicable diseases and public health.
- – Provide adequate equipment and systems to offer protection against contracting the virus, combating the virus, treatment for the virus and also reporting the virus.
- – Give enough time off (two weeks) for treatment and recovery in cases where staff members have contracted the virus, including self-isolation.
- – Evaluate cases of health staff members who could have been exposed to the virus, even if they show only minor signs and symptoms of COVID-19-virus (e.g. sore throat).
- – Downscale work practices where a large number of employees have to get together and consider work practices where exposure of staff to contracting and spreading the virus will be minimised.
- – Introduce policies in terms of which preventive measures in the workplace are put in place, such as forced self-isolation where symptoms are shown, regular washing of hands, no contact, maintaining a distance of 1.5 m and preventing the spread of droplets by coughing and sneezing.
Serious acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been confirmed as the causative virus for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The COVID-19 coronavirus is the result of the mutation of an animal virus that has found a human host and against which the human immune system does not necessarily offer resistance, and for which there is no antidote at present. It therefore has to be handled with great care.
Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPpoJGYlW54 for full information on the origin of this type of zoonotic viruses.
Diagnosing the virus
Click here for more information: http://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/.
Patients with acute respiratory disease with a sudden complaint of at least one of the following: cough, sore throat, difficulty in breathing or fever [≥ 38 °C (measured) or history of fever (subjective)]:
- – was in close contact with a confirmed or possible case of SARS-CoV-2 infection; or
- – has travelled to areas where SARS-CoV-2 occurs, namely China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Iran, Hong Kong, Italy, Vietnam and Taiwan; or
- – has been admitted with serious pneumonia of unknown etiology.
Treatment for the virus
There is no specific recommended antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Patients with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve the symptoms. For serious cases, treatment should include supporting vital organ functions.
The following hospitals have been designated for treatment of COVID-19 cases:
- – Polokwane Hospital in Limpopo
- – Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mpumalanga
- – Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Steve Biko Hospital and Tembisa Hospital in Gauteng
- – Grace Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal
- – Klerksdorp Hospital in North West
- – Kimberley Hospital in the Northern Cape
- – Pelonomi Hospital in the Free State
- – Livingstone Hospital in the Eastern Cape
- – Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape
Click here for more information: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/home-care-for-patients-with-suspected-novel-coronavirus-(ncov)-infection-presenting-with-mild-symptoms-and-management-of-contacts.
It is extremely important that the virus be reported via the NICD (National Institute for Communicable Diseases).
Click here for more information http://www.nicd.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Notifiable-Medical-Condition_Z-foldBleed20-July2018.pdf.
SEE THE ATTACHED INFORMATION ON REPORTING.
It is vitally important for employees and employers to co-operate with regard to their personal health and safety as well as the health and safety of their employees and colleagues.
Responsible behaviour by both parties will establish a safer environment and contribute towards minimising the spread of the coronavirus.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.