Strike impact

Following the court interdict ordering nurses, teachers and other government workers to halt their strike action, the Hospital and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (HOSPERSA) has decided to abandon the strike which began last week. But it is not clear if other unions will follow suit. By last night, the National Education Health and Allied Workers’€™ Union (NEHAWU), one of the biggest unions participating in the strike, maintained its rebellious stance saying its members will continue with the strike unless government tables a better wage and housing allowance offer. The strike has affected hospital services negatively. At Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, new mothers have had to take over the care of their babies. An unidentified young woman is one of those who gave birth on Wednesday, as the strike was getting underway.

‘€œMy baby is in ICU. She is two days old. I gave birth to her before the strike. She’€™s ill. All mothers who have babies in ICU are here taking care of them. We help one another. We’€™re all staying over because if we don’€™t sleep here there is no nurse to care for the babies’€, she said.

A member of the public who also did not want her identity revealed had come to see a sick relative at Chris Hani Bara and was concerned about the lack of care for her loved one.

‘€œHe is there all alone. He doesn’€™t get anything. Who will care for him? It’€™s almost a week since he’€™s been here. There is no difference to show that he’€™s getting better because he’€™s in hospital because there is no doctor and no nurse to care for him’€, she said.

But an unidentified patient who had been admitted at Chris Hani Bara for stab wounds sustained when he was robbed a day before the strike began said he had not been affected by the protest action.

‘€œThere are nurses. They attend us with our pills and our medicines and our food. Some of the doctors on my situation, they come to me and they help me’€, said the man.

Amid concerns after receiving threats that strikers were planning to completely shut down services at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest in Africa, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and a 60 member delegation of health professionals from the national Department of Health, visited the hospital to volunteer their services this past weekend. The team was set to be dispatched to other hospitals across the province.  

‘€œChris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is a symbol of South African life. If you close it you’€™re saying South Africans must go and die, especially in Soweto and all the other surrounding areas of Gauteng. That cannot be allowed.   We are also saying: Even during times of war, hospitals are never tampered with. If you get into theatre where somebody is being operated upon and you toyi-toyi there; you disrupt ‘€“ you are committing murder. I can’€™t describe it in any other terms. You are saying this innocent person who does not even know what’€™s going on, must actually die. It can never be allowed.

We don’€™t know any part of the world where such a thing is practiced and we are not about to allow it here. That’€™s why I came here personally to make sure that this place functions and I’€™m going to work’€, said Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

The Health Minister’€™s coming out to Chris Hani Bara broke his silence on the deadlock over wage and housing allowance negotiations, which had been dragging on since April. The Department of Public Service and Administration has already signed an offer which unions have rejected and has vowed to implement it if unions do not accept it. In the meantime, the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal Departments of Health and the national government have obtained interdicts to stop striking workers from violent activity and intimidating non-striking workers. The interdicts also force essential service providers to go back to work.

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