25 October 2017

South Africa: Gauteng Health Back Pays Community Health Workers

The Gauteng Health Department has settled salaries worth over R7 million to more than 1000 Community Health Workers (CHW) in back payments.

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said on Tuesday that as part of the department's efforts to ensure that residents receive quality health care, the workers' salaries were settled.

"A total of 1332 CHWs have been paid R7.8 million through a Service Provider, Smart Purse Solutions (Pty) Ltd which was appointed following a competitive bidding process," said MEC Ramokgopa.

The CHWs form the back bone of South Africa's health care system as they are responsible for community, household and individual health assessments and identification of health needs and risks. CHWs also assist individuals to seek the appropriate health care.

"These healthcare workers refer patients for further assessment and testing after performing simple basic screening. The CHWs are trained to provide limited, simple health interventions in a household such as basic first aid and oral rehydration. They also provide psycho-social support and manage interventions such as treatment defaulter tracing and adherence support," added the MEC.

According to the department, delays in payment as well as back-payments occurred due to CHWs verifications and validation processes of CHWs who claim to have worked and were unpaid. This process required facility based assessments against available body of evidence per district for work done at facilities by each individual CHW.

The claims for CHWs stipends are received monthly from the districts and paid to individual CHWs by the department through the service provider as per Service Level Agreement.

"To speed up the process of payment and to ensure that each CHW is paid what is due to them, the department verified CHWs who were slow to register but claimed to have continued working at facilities. Those found to have indeed worked and were unpaid, have been contracted and back-paid, currently 8 960 CHWs are paid by Smart purse," said MEC Ramokgopa.

The settlement of CHWs salaries follows a court battle which saw them fight to be recognized as health workers and for the department to take over their employment contracts.

On 18 March 2016, the Labour Court handed down judgment which ordered that CHWs were employees of the Health Department. MEC Ramokgopa said as from May 2016 to date, CHWs have been contracted with Smart Purse Solutions (Pty) Ltd.

The National Department of Health said it has been in consultations with provinces and different stakeholders in the development of a policy framework for the Community Health Worker Programme.

This policy framework intends to clarify and standardise employment conditions of CHWs across all provinces in the country.

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