The South African Medical Association (Sama) on Saturday said a return to a harder lockdown would be counterproductive and would not achieve meaningful results in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.
South Africa is back under an adjusted level three of the lockdown as a second wave pummels the country.
The national coronavirus command council met this week.
In a statement released on Saturday, Sama said focusing on strengthening health facilities, and vaccinating healthcare workers, is a more sensible approach now.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of Sama, said, “The coronavirus is out there, and returning to lockdown Level 5 will only harm our already fragile economy, and place businesses who are already struggling in further jeopardy. The current Level 3 lockdown is sufficient, but it must be accompanied by a wholesale improvement to medical care which requires a lot more focus on providing health facilities with resources to increase their capacity,”
Coetzee noted that since the start of the pandemic, Sama had called for more and better quality PPE for healthcare workers, increased numbers of doctors and other healthcare workers at public health facilities, lifting of moratorium on medical officer posts, and for more essential equipment to also be made available.
“We’ve all heard the stories and read the personal accounts of doctors who are struggling to cope with the lack of PPE, PPE which damages easily, of being overworked because of a lack of other medical professionals, or of equipment which either doesn’t work properly or which is simply not available. You can have as many beds as you want in any facility but without the medical expertise to treat a person lying in that bed it means nothing. And those medical professionals also need working equipment and protect themselves against infection. These steps, we believe, are more necessary than returning to Level 5 lockdown,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee confirmed Sama was being contacted daily by doctors who said they were burnt out from being overworked, but who also said authorities were not taking their concerns seriously enough.
“It’s a point we will continue making until it is taken more seriously than it currently is. At some point the pool of doctors working now is going to thin out due to exhaustion; you can have as many lockdowns as you like but not dealing with this critical core issue will sooner or later catch up with you.”
In addition, Coetzee said a vital step in dealing with the pandemic was to ensure all healthcare workers in the country were vaccinated as soon as possible. She said these healthcare workers were on the front lines of fighting COVID-19 and risking their own and their families’ lives daily by simply stepping into healthcare facilities to treat patients.
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