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South African Local Government Association (SALGA) president Cllr. Thembi Nkadimeng on the occasion of a World Environmental Health Day 2020 webinar





Posted: 30 September 2020

On Tuesday, 29 September 2020, Cllr. Thembi Nkadimeng, president of the South African Local Government (SALGA), told a World Environmental Health Day webinar that a crucial Imbizo to find innovative solutions to pressing challenges in the provision of municipal health services was needed.

Cllr. Nkadimeng, during the webinar that recognized the hard work and dedication of environmental health professionals, reflected on the state of environmental health services provided by municipalities.

Sounding the alarm over the well-established shortage of Environmental Healthcare Practitioners (EHPs) in South African municipalities, Cllr. Nkadimeng said the ratio of EHPs to population fell well below international guidelines.

“Our last human resource capacity assessment on municipal health services earlier this year had revealed that local government had just under 1700 permanently employed environmental health practitioners to service a population of over 58 million, which translate to a national average of 1:35 000 population instead of the prescribed norm of 1:10 000 population,” said Cllr Nkadimeng.

“This means that local government has a backlog of about 4 100 EHP’s to ensure that appropriate Municipal Health services are effectively and equitably provided in all municipal areas as prescribed by the national health act. The implication of this is that about 41 million people residing in South Africa are at risk of contracting diseases as the current workforce can only better service 17 Million population in line with the ratio of 1:10 000.

“Perhaps we need to consider calling an Imbizo with all concerned to address these matters,” said Cllr. Nkadimeng.

The webinar was attended by SALGA officials, municipal officials, health practitioners, representatives from other relevant departments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and higher education institutions.
Speaking on the unique role played by environmental healthcare practitioners in South Africa’s ongoing fight against COVID-19, Cllr. Nkadimeng said the coronavirus pandemic has placed into sharp focus why environmental health services are regarded as key service delivery issues.

“Not only that environmental health is key in diseases management, it is also key in diseases prevention which should be our primary focus as a country. A number of diseases outbreaks and other diseases which are costing government a lot of resources to contain are preventable and mainly from environmental health interventions such as health education and awareness, water quality monitoring, pollution control, health surveillance of premises and many other environmental health interventions,” she said.

Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) hailed as the resilient unsung heroes of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize hailed environmental healthcare practitioners for their efforts in the fight against COVID-19 in very trying circumstances.

In the early stages of the outbreak, the critical role played by environmental health practitioners in disease prevention and response had already become evident. In line with International Health Regulations 2005, environmental health practitioners at the points of entry had the unenviable task of preventing the impossible importation of COVID-19 as the first line of defense and to protect citizens from the health risk that arise as a result of international travel,” said Dr Mkhize

Dr Mkhize also said the effectiveness of inter-governmental relations was one of the key takeaways of the COVID-19 experience.

“Our experience has been that outbreaks whether it is COVID-19, cholera, malaria, listeriosis, all brought forth the importance of environmental health and the need for a cooperative response approach by both government and society,” he said

Heightened calls for an Environmental Health Imbizo.

Dr Selva Mudaly, president of the South African Institute of Health (SAIEH) and International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH), echoed Cllr. Nkadimeng’s sentiments on the need for an environmental health Imbizo.

This in light of the centrality of environmental health practitioners in the reduction of South Africa’s disease burden thus increasing the quality of life.

“We call upon you to convene an environmental health imbizo with all MECs for Health in the province, all MMCs for Health in district and metro municipalities, SALGA, NGOs, national, provincial staff in charge of municipal health services, COGTA and Treasury,” said Dr Mudaly. “We must once and for all deal with these challenges and find a way forward and not wait for another pandemic or disaster to happen.”

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