On 29 May, mining companies launched work-related diseases compensation project at Carletonville Hospital in West Rand. Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi attended the event to rubberstamp the launch. Also present were unions organising in the mining sector, namely NUM, UASA, AMCU, NUMSA, and Solidarity. They all committed to working with both the department and mining companies in years to come, and urged companies to do more than just compensating for diseases contracted in mines.
All mining companies to undertook to work closely with the minister in what appeared to be a positive response to, among others, the country's Act, COIDA, and Occupational Diseases in Mines Act which are seated with the department of Labour and Health respectively.
Minister Motsoaledi says it was a historic day for a project that is long overdue as mining-related diseases are costing the state the tune of R1.5 billion.
The day also celebrated the first anniversary of One-Stop Service Centre for those in mining. He urged miners and ex-mine workers to make use of the centres every second year because mining-related diseases such as Sillicosis surface 20 years after a worker has been in a mine.
Two service centres have since been established in the country. The other one is in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape where 4000 workers have gone through it already, and plans are afoot to open others in Kuruman in Northern Cape and Burgersfort in Limpopo. The centres will assist ex-mine workers to identify problems they encountered while in the mines, conduct health promotion and embark on compensation-related compensation administration.
The compensation will compensate current and former miners, provided they have all necessary documentation.
Payment from ODMA has proven to be a challenge, said Minister. "But we have secured the service of one of only 40 specialists on occupational diseases in South Africa.
Key diseases to compensate miners includes TB, Sillicosis which are most problematic in mining areas.
"If you are HIV positive and have Sillicosis, chances of you contracting TB 18 times more. If you have Sillicosis, chances of contracting TB are six times more," he explained.
Motsoaledi said he has received several letters from workers in neighbouring countries, through the Department of International Relations and Corporation (DIRCO), demanding compensation for diseases contracted while working in South Africa, saying the need to speed up payment is urgent.
He also emphasised that health workers like nurses and doctors are also vulnerable to diseases that they contract from treating patient who are miners, and that many nurses are being treated for both NDR Tb and X-DR TB.
He indicated that the laws of the country are going to change, and deal with strengthening of prevention.
"We must lead the way as South Africa on this issue, as we are hit by TB," said Motsoaledi.