Unions demand absorption of community service workers

South Africa battling nursing shortage(File)

Clinics don’t operate for 24/7 in Limpopo because of a shortage of staff, says the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in Limpopo. It is calling for the absorption of post community service workers (comm-serve) by department of health.

But Dr Phophi Ramathuba announced earlier this year that due to financial constraints, her department wouldn’t be able to do so.

The solution to the shortage of staff 

According to Denosa chairman, Lesiba Monyaki: “We expect more 200 nurses [to] graduate this year. And that means we could have more than 500 nurses [who] will be at home next year adding [to the] 270 currently at home and that is too many. In Limpopo more than 90% of the clinics are not operating for 24 hours and the main reason is because of the shortage of staff.” 

The post comm-serves are qualified midwives and they are not working, he says. “If you see a clinic not operating 24 hours, [it] is because it doesn’t have midwives. As we speak, 270 midwives are sitting at home and some might be working [in] other provinces and now we are waiting for others to complete [their comm-serve],” says Monyaki. 

However Denosa, together with Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and other unions, have embarked on a march to present a memorandum of grievances to the premier’s office, Treasury and the Department of Health in Limpopo. Amongst the challenges being presented are: absorption of comm-serve workers, vacant posts, shortage of staff, unsafe working environment, and performance working bonuses.

“The PEC [Provincial Executive Committee] continue to demand that performance bonus of workers in the department of health be paid utilising the total budget of R213 million which is the 1.5% of its annual remuneration budget as prescribed in the PMDS [Performances Management and Development System] policy. We reject the paltry R43 million which the department wants to force down our throats. The union is further angered by the attitude of the department towards organised labour wherein leaders of unions were removed military style by an army of security personnel out of the provincial head office. This clearly indicates the highest form of arrogance by the department and undermines trade unions in this province,” says National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) provincial secretary, Jacob Adams in a statement.

The removal of the MEC 

Nehawu also demands the removal of the MEC for health from office. “The union will not be intimidated to bow down to scare tactics by the department. All this proves the correctness of our assessment that the department is leaderless and the Premier must accede to our demand and remove Dr Phophi Ramathuba as the MEC of health,” Nehawu says.

This is not the first time Nehawu has called for removal of Ramathuba. In August during Nehawu’s Provincial Day of Action they demanded her dismissal because they say she has failed to address challenges faced by her department and that all clinics which were identified to offer 24/7 services should be operational with immediate effect.

Monyaki says the union would like the commitment that all completed and soon-to-be completed post comm-serves are absorbed into the department, safety at hospitals be improved, and the basic employment conditions be followed. 

“We don’t want them to tell us to wait for the next financial year. We would like Premier Stanley Mathabatha to go to national government and tell them that the department of health in the province is in poor state and is falling apart. Because anytime it can collapse and we won’t have the department anymore if [these] issues are not resolved.” – Health-e News 


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