North West community health care workers protest bikes, payment
The North West’s move to put more than 300 community health workers on bicycles has met resistance from workers and union representatives as they alleged they were never consulted about the bikes – and that they remain underpaid.
North West MEC for Health Dr Magome Masike recently handed over 364 bicycles to community health workers working in the province’s Dr Kenneth Kaunda District, which is currently piloting the National Health Insurance (NHI).
The North West – and Gauteng’s Tshwane NHI pilot distict – are leading the country’s NHI pilots in the deployment of ward-based outreach teams. Comprised of community health workers and headed by nurses, these ward-based teams conduct door-to-door health screenings and education with a particularly focus on the health of pregnant women and children under the age of five.
Both districts have more than 70 such teams. According to Masike, the bicycles were meant to ease the burden of home visits and he added more were soon to come.
But the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) Regional Secretary Sello Hlatywayo told OurHealth that community health workers were not consulted about whether they would like to use bicycles for home visits.
“We don’t want the bicycles,” said Hlatywayo, adding that some of the health workers were too big to fit on the bicycles. “The workers might get involved in accidents or injured while using the bicycles.”
Community health care workers also say they want their monthly R2000-stipend increased to R4000 – and they want permanent employment contracts.
North West Department of Health Spokesperson Tebogo Lekgetoane said the department would work closely with the police and the traffic department to make ensure the bicycles are not stolen or misused and the community health workers were not harassed.
Dr Kenneth Kuanda NHI Project Manager Dr Uma Nagpal said no health worker would be forced to use the bicycles.