NW health strike partially suspended

NW health strike partially suspendedProtesting NEHAWU members outside Potchefstroom hospital. (Photo: Graeme Makam/ Health-e)

NORTH-WEST – While the ongoing health workers strike that has brought North West province hospitals to a standtill has not officially ended, union members have agreed to a “cooling off” period that will see skeleton staff reporting for duty from Thursday.

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NEHAWU provincial secretary Patrick Makhafane on Wednesday afternoon told stroking workers to go back to work and refrain from protest action on Thursday.

The major strike is by health workers demanding salary increases, better conditions in hospitals and clinics and the end of a contract given to Gupta-linked company Mediosa.

Makhafane said the ongoing strike action would be partly suspended to allow for hospitals to continue operating, and during this time NEHAWU officials would meet with both the technical and Parliamentary task teams who are investigating the situation that has seen hospitals and clinics shut down, workers intimidated and even striking members barging into operating theatres.

“During this cooling off period we will engage in discussions and negotiations to agree on a way forward,” Makhafane said, shortly after instructing members of the decision to suspend protest action and allow skeleton staff to man provincial hospitals and clinics until an agreement is reached.

Blocking doctors

Doctors at Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp on Wednesday morning were prevented from accessing the premises by striking NEHAWU workers. Two interns were left in charge of surgery patients as doctors were turned away.

According to one of the interns, patients had no medication and only one person was available to feed the patients.

“There are normally 11 doctors on duty on any given day, but today it was only two of us: one intern and one community service doctor. Specialists and other doctors were not there to see patients,” she said.

The intern, who spoke to Health-e on condition of anonymity, said she had spent the night on shift duty and was supposed to be relieved this morning but that did not happen because the doctors were not allowed in and so she had to stay on duty until 1pm.

 “It’s a good thing that there were not many patients because of the strike. Otherwise we would have had a crisis. There was no medication for the patients,” said the doctor.

This comes after the North West Health Department confirmed that it has opened a case of intimidation. 

On Monday North West Health spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said police were asked to provide security at Klerksdorp and Tshepong hospitals.

A doctor who reported for duty at 7am on Wednesday said there were no police on guard and they were turned away from Tshepong Hospital by striking workers. 

“They blocked the entrance and turned nurses and doctors away. Yesterday we were able to go in but today we could not,” the doctor said.

The situation slowly calmed down throughout the day until NEHAWU instructed members to suspend all protest action.