Health facilities in KwaZulu-Natal are beginning to return to normality following a week of unrest in the province that saw the disruption of vital medical services.
"We are quite satisfied with the gradual return to normal working conditions at health facilities throughout the province. We are still calculating the real costs of the damage, but we are pleased that most staff have returned to work. Yes, the queues are a bit longer than usual, but they will become shorter as more people get seen," Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said on Wednesday.
The province and Durban in particular were akin to a warzone last week when protests related to the arrest and imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma escalated into large-scale looting and violence, claiming 215 lives and costing KwaZulu-Natal R20-billion in the space of a few days.
Medical services were also severely disrupted, with Covid-19 vaccination sites shut down and medical facilities running short of staff who could not get to work due to the unrest.
Simelane said that, as services began to return to normal, citizens should protect their health facilities.
"We need for communities to take full ownership of health facilities in their communities. When such facilities get vandalised, it is ordinary people – including the poor – who suffer the most, and may end up dying."
The MEC was speaking after visiting Imbalenhle Community Health Care (CHC) and KwaPata Clinic in Pietermaritzburg, during one of a series of inspections to assess the damage caused by the social unrest that swept through parts of the province last week.
While Imbalenhle CHC was spared any damage, KwaPata Clinic had one of its vehicles' windows smashed and three tyres removed.
"We'd like to emphasise that communities need to protect health facilities from acts of vandalism and protect them. They also need to protect our staff, and not block them from going to work, because lives get lost that way,” said Simelane.
Services returning to normal
She said the supply of auxiliary services - such as food, oxygen and fuel - "continues to run smoothly".
"And our emergency medical services are up and running. So are our Forensic Pathology Services. We are also happy that the vast majority of Covid-19 vaccination sites (192 sites) are now up and running."
The province has now vaccinated a total of 986 311 people, including health workers, educators and people aged 50 or over.
A total of 217 511 people aged between 35 and 49 have been registered on the Electronic Vaccine Data System, and are scheduled to commence vaccinations on 1 August.
The province has, meanwhile, registered 1 007 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 377 395.
There are currently 15 695 active cases, while 47 new deaths were registered during this last 24-hour period. This brings the total number of fatalities to 11 175, with 349 031 recoveries.
The province currently has 1 814 patients admitted in both private (1 004, 55%) and public (810, 45%) hospitals.