Nurses continued their strike action at Boitumelo Regional Hospital on Monday over safety issues, overtime and staff shortages. The nurses downed tools on Friday, leaving patients unattended and unable to get their medication.
Patients who queued early in the morning were eventually told to go home as there was nobody to see them.
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 the ones being 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 issue of safety 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,” she said.
She was asked why the workers chose to strike on a day when the CEO wasn’t present.
“We knew they’d call him back to address our grievances. You must remember we are nursing patients in wards and not working on an appointment basis. Doctors can still work with patients, and we are not stopping them.”
🟥BREAKING NEWS🟥 Workers at Boitumelo Regional Hospital in Kroonstad are on strike. Allegedly, Patients are currently not receiving medical attention.
— Central News (@fscentralnews) February 4, 2023
‘Dept owes us money’
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 sunscreen. She says the doctors were helpful. “I realised that the so-called strike was only done by nurses, not doctors. 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.
Department vows to take action
Meanwhile, the health department has condemned the illegal strike and threatened to deal with those who left patients stranded at Boitumelo.
Spokesperson Mondli Mvambi says the department is disappointed that workers defaulted on the policy to voice their grievances.
“Yes, we are aware that some workers have decided to embark on an illegal strike over human resource issues that are in the process of being handled. Appointments are also being finalised, as well as some claims of overtime pay. We are outraged by this illegal activity that compromises the well-being of patients,” he says.
He added that with the strike continuing, they had put measures in place to ensure patients were taken care of.
“The department is putting contingency measures for the continuity of care of patients while we appeal to all the illegally striking workers to return to work of which failure will result in the department having to consider appropriate labour relations remedies,” Mvambi adds.
Workers say they will continue with their strike until the director of human resource management hears them out. Boitumelo is the regional hospital in the northern region of the Free State with four district feeder hospitals. It is one of few hospitals built in a township. – Health-e News