Expiring of Brackengate contract nursing staff contracts on 31 May 2023
The Brackengate COVID-19 field hospital was originally established and funded as a COVID-19 facility, to cater for the overflow of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. These contracts were extended where needed. For many months ahead of the time, the staff were informed that they would need to seek alternative employment opportunities and apply for other posts due to their contracts ending imminently. With far fewer clinical admissions as a result of COVID-19, and none at Brackengate, the Department of Health and Wellness is no longer able to keep extending these contracts at the expense of funding needed to see to residents’ medical needs. Their final expiry came yesterday, 31 May 2023. We value these nurses, and are supporting them where we can to obtain new opportunities.
While no longer specifically catering to the needs of the pandemic, this facility is being repurposed to serve as a general transitional care facility, which requires different nursing skills than previously required for COVID-19 patients. The commissioning of beds at the Brackengate facility are done via a phased approach and the facility will ultimately have 128 beds, which is fewer beds than the 338 COVID-19 field hospital beds, it thus also requires fewer staff.
The Department today met with labour and union representatives to discuss an amicable way forward. With the change in scope of service that the facility will now provide, we acknowledge that not all previously contracted staff will meet the job criteria required to fulfil this changed function. As such, the Department has given its commitment to conclude the current recruitment and selection process by the end of June and will then update the members. We have also given our support to explore where vacancies exist within the public service to which they meet the required job criteria and to encourage them to apply for such vacancies. The Department will also keep the unions and labour representatives informed of progress.
“We have been engaging with staff that were contracted to support the emergency COVID-19 response since October 2022 on the ending of their contracts, which were linked to this period of funding until March 2023. The Department then provided new contracts for two months from its own budget,” explains Dr Saadiq Kariem, Chief of Operations for Western Cape Government Health and Wellness.
He adds that all Brackengate contract staff were encouraged to apply for positions at the new transitional care facility. “We have appointed 117 staff members for the new Brackengate staff contracts already. Of the 117 appointments, 72 are staff members who worked at Brackengate during the previous phase. These appointees met the required criteria and scope which is required for the new service package offering at the Transitional Care facility.”
We can confirm that a block advertisement was displayed at Brackengate from 22 January 2022 to 16 January 2023 to encourage the current contract staff to apply. A memo was then sent on 17 April 2023 to contract nursing staff to remind them that the applications were open until 28 April 2023.
“We thank the contract staff who worked at Brackengate COVID-19 hospital for their dedication. They served our patients with dignity and care, providing quality patient care for all those in need,” says Dr Kariem.