The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the National and Gauteng Departments of Health to explain the quagmire of new problems besetting mandatory quarantine for repatriated citizens entering South Africa. It has recently come to light that the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) failed to renew its contract with an NGO that supplies medical staff - primarily nurses - at more than 40 privately-run quarantine sites in Gauteng. The GDoH was to have assumed responsibility for ensuring that nursing staff be provided to quarantine sites once the contract lapsed on Friday, 31 July 2020, however, to date, this has not materialised at a single site.
Instead, on Friday, all the privately-run quarantine sites in the province received a message from GDoH's Johan van Coller, stating that "at 16h00 there will be no nurses at the NDoH quarantine sites. The contract with the NGO that was supplying the nurses came to an end. Please raise your concerns with the NDoH [National Department of Health], Mr Khosa and Mr Mahlangu, due to [the fact] that the sites are run through the NDoH not the GDoH." Van Coller went on to describe that his role was to provide statistics and information to the GDoH and to the NDoH, not to be involved in the procurement of nursing staff.
Since then, no medical personnel have been available at private quarantine sites contracted by the NDoH and the GDoH. The situation has become so worrisome for some facilities that they have resorted to hiring their own medical staff - both nurses and doctors - at a cost of R290 490 for four nurses every 14 days to ensure that appropriate medical care can be provided to citizens in their care.
This disaster coincides with a communique issued by the NDoH on 22 July 2020, that repatriated citizens could apply to self-quarantine prior to their return to South Africa. The Department also extended the option to those repatriated citizens currently in quarantine facilities, and who meet the criteria to self-quarantine at home. A form could be downloaded from the website and submitted to the NDoH for evaluation.
The self-quarantine process has now become a total nightmare as there is currently hundreds of applications awaiting approval. In addition to the backlog, applications are seemingly not being equitably evaluated. Some successful applicants received an email simply signed "Kind Regards, The Quarantine Team". As this was not on an NDoH or GDoH letterhead, port health authorities were questioning the authenticity of the email and refusing citizens' self-quarantine options.
The DA has been inundated with queries regarding the self-quarantine process - and our requests for assistance from NDoH have gone unanswered. We will, however, continue to place pressure on both the National and Gauteng Department of Health seeking clarity regarding their shambolic handling of the self-quarantine process.
The DA will continue to push for transparency and open communication from Government on its poor management of quarantine facilities in Gauteng, as well as its chaotic handling of those wanting to self-quarantine at home.