Minister Nxesi's vaccine shot in the arm as Compensation Fund, entities set aside R1.35-billion for 3 million uninsured workers
In a significant boost to the country's vaccination programme, the Department of Employment and Labour through the Compensation Fund (CF), in partnership with mutual assurance companies Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) and Federated Employer's Mutual Assurance (FEMA), have partnered to contribute R1,35 billion to fund vaccines for uninsured workers who do not have medical aid cover.
The funding is anticipated to contribute towards the vaccinations under phase 2 of an estimated 3 million workers, which is a significant contribution to the government's plan to inoculate about 75% of the population to reach the 67% herd immunity target.
The initiative forms part of the ongoing collaboration between the public and private sectors to plug the vaccine rollout's financial gaps programme as well as proactively ensuring that a significant part of workers gets inoculated instead of dealing with resultant claims.
This was announced by the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi during the department's Budget Vote on Friday.
The Minister commented further and he said: "We are humbled and grateful for the support that the boards of the CF, the RMA and FEMA have demonstrated in pledging support for the Department's plan to ensure protection of workers through the vaccine rollout programme. This selfless gesture demonstrates the milestones that can be achieved when all social partners work towards a common purpose and vision.
"The Covid-19 vaccination is unprecedented and is one of the biggest and most expansive national programmes government has undertaken. As government, we cannot successfully carry out this mammoth task on our own. We need all hands on deck to ensure that we can prevail over this pandemic," says Minister Nxesi who also thanked the CEOs of the two entities and the Board of Healthcare Funders of Southern Africa who are working closely with government in ensuring the objective of this contribution is achieved.
"This marks an important turning point in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Our view is that if we can have more parties on board to support in a similar vein, we can help government in bridging some of the funding gaps in the procuring of vaccinations. If we work together, we can all play a significant role in providing a much-needed safety net for millions of vulnerable workers who do not have the means to fund their vaccinations or afford private healthcare cover.
"We aim to collectively make a meaningful contribution to the fight against the coronavirus by ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated for the country to meet herd immunity targets," says Minister Nxesi.
The decision to fund the vaccine for uninsured workers marks a proactive intervention by the three entities that the government is taking to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In just over a year, the CF, in compliance with the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act as well as the Workplace-Acquired COVID-19 Directive issued by the Employment and Labour Ministry in July 2020, has received a total of 22333 Covid-19 claims and has accepted liability for 11 466 of the claims.
Of those claims, 71 are in relation to fatalities and already R57-million (R57 346 339.88) has been spent in support of workers through medical aid, funeral costs, benefits for dependants as well as in temporary total disablement.
The majority of the workers who will benefit from this initiative are mainly the vulnerable workers, who have the least resources to mitigate against the loss of income, whether temporary or permanent, resulting from hospitalisation due to Covid-19 infection. The ripple effects of the financial burden they face are felt by their extended families, who rely on them for their livelihood.