News OurHealth

Strikes cause chaos for NW health

Written by Graeme Makam

As protests across North West province increase along with demands for Premier Supra Mahumapelo to resign, the province’s embattled health sector is feeling pain.

Districts in the province have reported over 90% of stock-outs on drugs, several healthcare workers have gone on strike and health finance management is in a mess this after the parliamentary budget office review of the country’s hospital revitalisation grant reported that only 20% of the spending has been done while 100% of the budgeted funds have been spent.

National Education Health and Allied Worker’s Union (NEHAWU) has been on strike for nearly two months, demanding the resignation of Dr Thabo Lekalakala, head of the North West Health Department in the province. They also want performance bonuses they claim have not been paid for years as well as an investigation into the controversial R180-million contract awarded to Mediosa, a Gupta-linked company.

Premier Supra Mahumapelo has blamed the strike for ‘delays’ experienced by the forensic investigations.

“Investigators are unable to obtain critical documents and information which is held on the premises of the Department of Health,” said the Premier’s spokesperson, Brian Setswambug.

Lack of medicines

NEHAWU members have been on strike at the provincial depot, with supply of medicines across the province being affected. Healthcare workers are forced to turn patients away due to the lack of medicines.

On April 5 Mahumapelo, who was under fire, appointed a team of MECs to intervene in the operations of the Health and Social Development departments. The three-member team is led by MEC Sello Lehari, who is responsible for Education and Sports Development. The team was tasked to resolve the issues which are the center of the strike by NEHAWU members – but has so far been unsuccessful.

The South African National Defense Force has been sent to North West to assist with the delivery of medication and also military medical practitioners have been sent to the province.

It has also been reported that lectures at Klerksdorp’s Exelsius Nursing College are on strike too, demanding a salary increase from the department, and students are forced to do their classwork in their rooms.

The South African Association of Hospital and Institutional Pharmacists (SAAHIP) also released a statement regarding lack of medicines in the province.

“The closure of healthcare facilities due to the unavailability of medicine and medical supplies from provincial depots can result in devastating consequences for patients. Not only is death a possibility in some cases, but patients who have been stabilised on chronic medicines risk having inadequate control of their ongoing medical condition, while patients needing medicines for acute conditions face the possibility of not receiving medicines at all,” SAAHIP said.

Shutdown

Mahikeng Hospital in the province’s capital has shutdown because of a lack of medical supplies. Patients are being turned away and medical staff has not reported for work, claiming they feel demoralised knowing there’s nothing they can do to assist patients.

It has also been reported that lectures at Klerksdorp’s Exelsius Nursing College are on strike too, demanding a salary increase from the department, and students are forced to do their classwork in their rooms.

Troubles in the platinum province are wider with violent protests in Mahikeng having claimed one life and several more have been injured. Residents are demanding that Mahumapelo resign.

The healthcare sector is the most affected department in the province, with national health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi saying he’s extremely concerned by the lack of access to medicines and people dying in the province due to the protests.

About the author

Graeme Makam