Port Elizabeth nurses angry as some salaries remain unpaid

Port Elizabeth field hospital nurses unpaid
Written by Thamsanqa Mbovane

Dozens of nurses at Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni field hospital have gone unpaid. Officials say it is an administration glitch, but that is little comfort to the frontline workers who cannot afford to pay rent or electricity.

Dozens of nurses at Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni field hospital in Port Elizabeth said they slept on empty stomachs over the weekend, due to unpaid salaries.

According to Health-e sources, out of 509 working at the Chabula-Nxiweni hospital, only 420 got paid their salaries on Friday.

The remaining 89 unpaid frontline health workers said they could not afford to buy monthly electricity in their homes, pay accounts, feed their families, or pay rent.

They said their  3,300-bed Covid-19 field hospital, which used to be a Volkswagen manufacturing plant, has let them down.

“A list of our names went out on Thursday morning, stating that 89 of us won’t be paid our salaries,” said one nurse who preferred to remain anonymous. “We were very disappointed.

“Management said we are not appointed and we are awaiting post creation,” said the nurse. “We signed a one-year contract in March last year with the Department of Health, however this is the first time this is happening, as we have been getting paid on a month-to-month smoothly before, without any stories.”

Interns hired to dole out meds

According to nurses, their duty is to give out medication, do doctors’ rounds, and carry out patient assessments. Currently, the nurses said there are less than 100 Covid-19 patients in the huge facility, which they add is underutilised.

Another nurse who also spoke on condition of anonymity said they were told salaries will be paid on Monday, 8 February.

“Some of the nurses who got paid on Friday have received salaries that are short R3,000, whilst others’ salaries are short of R1, 000,” said the nurse. “We used to be deprived of PPE and now we had to sweat in a dangerous environment and get nothing at the end of the day.”

“We want our salaries.We need to pay debits, clubs, clothing accounts and feed our families,” said the nurse. “We have slept on empty stomach over the weekend.”

National Treasury deactivation

However, Nelson Mandela Bay District Manager Darlen De Vos said there was a hitch with processing the cash.

“The payment code for contractual employees was deactivate by National Treasury effectively from 1 Jan 2021,” she said.

“We were requested to identify vacant post and place our 509 employees affected by the process in the relevant vacant post. We manage to process 432 and are left with 77 due to post shortages. We are constantly in contact with Head Office for the creation of more posts.”

She could not confirm reports that the salaries have been reduced  and promised to investigate.

“They only referred to night duty allowance not paid,” she added.

Human resources officials apparently addressed workers on Friday when it was clear the payments would not be made in time, stipulating that they would all come through by 8 February.—Health-e News

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Thamsanqa Mbovane