Nurses have ended their strike at Boitumelo Regional Hospital. They downed tools last week over safety issues, overtime and staff shortages. The National Health Department (NDoH) says the strike ended after a meeting between unions and the provincial health department on Monday.

“The Free State Department of Health has made phenomenal progress on many of the concerns tabled by union representatives during engagements with the management of the Department,” says NDoH. 

Meetings between senior management and union representatives at Boitumelo Regional Hospital will continue to outline the progress in addressing their concerns. 

The department adds that the concerns raised were already being attended to. It says air-conditioners in three of the five theatres were repaired. The remaining two units were ordered. An air-conditioner was installed in the maternity theatre. A broken generator, a leaking roof and five cold rooms were also repaired.

The NDoH added that there are currently 250 vacant posts at the hospital, but 234 are frozen. This is due to the posts being vacant for over a year. The vacancies include 15 doctors, four specialist doctors, 28 staff nurses, 38 professional nurses and six operational managers.

On Friday, Health-e News visited Boitumelo Regional hospital when the nurses were on strike and found several disgruntled patients and workers.

A patient, Thabo Motsielwa from Dinoheng, not too far from the hospital, was fuming after being ignored for hours.

“I’m very angry because our people are left to die.  No one told us that we were not going to be helped. At least they should’ve let us know in the waiting area,” says Motsielwa.

Nurses defend their action

Meanwhile, a nurse, who asked for her name to be withheld, says their main grievance was the safety issue inside the hospital.

“We are also forced to work overtime without being paid. We’ve also been working with limited teams, hoping more people will get hired,” says the nurse.

Another worker, identified as Thabang Mooketsi, says the department owes them money.

“I work in a hospital pharmacy, and we work overtime every day because you can’t tell people to return the next day. Some are from areas outside Kroonstad and come to us for their prescribed medicine. Management knows about this. We’ve raised it in the past, and they say it would be attended to, but it never has. We left our posts to send a message that we want to be paid what’s due to us,” he says.

Magaret Sello is 71 years old and had brought her great-grandson, born with albinism, to get his sun protection creams. She says the doctors were helpful. “I realised that nurses, not doctors, only did the strike. I managed to get what I was here for and didn’t hear why the nurses are unhappy,” she says.

Selina Dithebe, 39, a patient at Boitumelo, says they saw the nurses striking through the windows, but everything returned to normal in her ward. – Health-e News