Fewer hospitals disrupted by strike on Thursday
Negotiations may soon take place at Public Sector Coordinating Bargaining Council
There were still disruptions at some health facilities by striking workers on Thursday, but the situation appears to have been much calmer than earlier this week. Negotiations had not yet resumed by early afternoon between unions and the government at the Public Sector Coordinating Bargaining Council.
On Thursday, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla and Gauteng MEC for Health Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko said in a joint statement that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) strike has become a threat to human lives as protestors “prevent and block the non-striking workers from entering facilities to render much needed services to communities”.
As a consequence, the national department advised provincial departments to apply for court interdicts to protect workers and health facilities from violence.
Five provinces have since applied for court interdicts to prevent the NEHAWU from disrupting services at health facilities and intimidating workers. These provinces include Gauteng, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, and Eastern Cape.
The situation in Gauteng improved on Thursday. On Wednesday the Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson confirmed that about twelve health facilities were impacted by the strike, with four hospitals experiencing complete shutdown. The department said in a statement that in these four hospitals, namely Kopanong, Sebokeng, Thelle Mogoerane and Bheki Mlangeni “patients were left unattended as striking workers went inside wards ordering staff out of the facilities”.
On Thursday morning the department received an update that Bheki Mlangeni, Kopanong, Sebokeng, Thelle Mogoerane and Helen Joseph hospitals were still experiencing challenges. But Charlotte Maxeke hospital was nearly fully operational. The department said that at Chris Hani Baragwanath the situation was “stable inside” but that protests outside continued and obstructed the main entrance.
Spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said on Thursday that several of its hospitals have returned to peace and calm, and that staff numbers have also been increasing. On Wednesday, the hardest hit hospitals were the National District Hospital, Universitas, Pelonomi and the medical depot in Bloemfontein. But on Thursday Universitas hospital was calm. Mvambi said that the depot was at work again with support from Public Order Police. “This enables the depot to receive stock from suppliers and dispatch medicines to facilities,” he said.
But the situation at Pelonomi hospital was still tense. Mvambi said there seemed to be a “relative increase in health workers that are willing to render services but intimidation is also on the rise with strikers stalking the wards and service points in an attempt to remove those who are working”.
Earlier today there were protestors singing at the gates of some health facilities, such as the National District Hospital and Boitumelo Regional Hospital.
Mofumahali Manapo Mopeli, Bongani, Fezi Ngubentombi, Dihlabeng, Albert Nzula, and Senorita Ntlabathi hospitals were not affected by strikes on Thursday and were functional.
Provincial health department spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said the situation on Thursday has improved. He said there have been a few protests at health facilities but that protestors were not blocking entrances. Patients and workers who are not on strike were able to access facilities.
He said that the latest update they’ve received is that NEHAWU in the province called on their membership to pause the strike and go back to negotiations.
Provincial health department spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo said that the most affected health facilities was the Sol Plaatje sub-district.
She said other health facilities, mainly in Kuruman as well as De Aar hospital (Pixley ka Seme district), had sporadic incidents of striking workers.
Kagisho Community Health Centre in John Taolo Gaetsewe district is still not operational with burning tyres at the entrance which has prevented staff and patients from access. Mxekezo said that police are helping to diffuse the situation. She said other health facilities are fully operational such as Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital and Beaconsfield.
Provincial health department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said that the NEHAWU protest action has been mainly isolated to the Khayelitsha area, resulting in disruptions at Michael Mapongwana Clinic and Khayelitsha District Hospital.
Van der Heever said several critical patients had to be transferred to other facilities. On Tuesday night and Wednesday evening, protestors blocked staff from entering Khayelitsha hospital. There were also peaceful protests at Karl Bremer and Tygerberg Hospital.
He said that on Thursday services resumed with no patient diversions in place, although there are still protesters outside Khayelitsha District Hospital and Michael Mapongwana Clinic.
In a statement, the KwaZulu-Natal health department said that many critical health services have been affected by the NEHAWU strikes, such as intensive care, emergency medical services, orthopaedic wards, casualty, and laboratory services.
“As the strike enters its fourth day today, the Department has noted a high rate of staff absenteeism, intimidation of workers, as well as difficulties of access into healthcare facilities, especially at eThekwini, uMgungundlovu and Ilembe Districts, which have been blockaded by the protesters,” the statement read.
Spokesperson Christopher Nobela said that on Thursday their hospitals and clinics were functional but still running on skeleton staff.
Spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said that the province did not experience any disruptions on Thursday.
We did not receive an update at the time of publication.
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