Failed negotiations with the Western Cape government on Sunday means the protest action by  the  South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) will continue until Wednesday 9 August. The taxi strike started last Thursday and has resulted in acts of public violence including the burning of Golden Arrow buses. 

The violence associated with the strike has impacted the health service delivery in the Cape metro area. Several health services have been operating at a reduced capacity since the strike started.  

The health department has advised patients to postpone clinic visits in areas affected by the strike. If they’re unable to postpone, patients should visit their nearest alternative facility. 

On Thursday, the first day of the strike, several clinics could only provide  emergency services. Other clinics had to shut down completely. 

On Monday facilities in Phillipi, Nyanga, Crossroads, Nolungile, and Gugulethu were closed.

“Community-based care in these areas has also been suspended. Clients who have appointments at these facilities today and Tuesday, are advised not to go to these facilities as they will be closed.  Services at all other facilities will be available, but with limited capacity,” said Dr Saadiq Kariem, chief of operations at the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness in a statement. 

Safety first 

Elective surgeries at Tygerberg, Red Cross and Groote Schuur hospitals have been postponed and only emergency surgery is being conducted. Outpatients were advised to only attend their appointments if safe to do so.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and keep our staff and the public informed of any changes to the provision of health care. We are thankful to our staff who again showed up with resilience, today and over the weekend, as they continue to go beyond the call of duty in making sure we can provide healthcare to those in need,” said Kariem in a media release today.

Rozaun Botes, brand and reputation management at Tygerberg Hospital said the facility had to cancel some planned elective surgeries on Friday. Getting back on track and performing the remaining surgeries will depend on how long the strike lasts and its impact. 

According to Botes some of the staff were unable to access transport to get to work on Thursday. Similarly a number of patients have been unable to get to the hospital for outpatient appointments. 

“There have been staff shortages but contingency measures have been put in place to minimise the impact of these shortages.”

Emergency services

Forensic pathology services at Tygerberg and Salt River are operational, but response to scenes would be delayed in red zones.  

The department said emergency medical service (EMS) staff in the province will need to be escorted into red zones by law enforcement officers. According to Western Cape EMS spokesperson, Megan Davids, areas such as N2, Gugulethu, Nyanga , Langa and Khayelitsha were heavily affected. 

“Some areas became so volatile that EMS could only enter with official law enforcement escorts. However, with every law enforcement official utilised in combating crime or controlling the protesting crowds, we’ve had times where we were unfortunately not able to enter areas as a result of the violent protest action,” she said.

No theft of equipment or vehicles was confirmed. But EMS staff and vehicles on the road have been targeted. 

“We had one particular incident where protesters torched a HealthNet vehicle on the N2 on Thursday afternoon. One of our staff members and the patient enroute were violently removed from the vehicle, which was then set alight. 

“Both the staff member and patient were left unharmed but in dire distress,” she said. 

The continuous violent protests and the torching of vehicles have caused serious traffic congestion, delaying response times. 

“The effect of the delays caused our service to do call-backs to patients waiting on ambulance services and inform them that in certain areas, the delays would be extended,” Davids says 

“We ask the public to keep safe and remain alert. We need your help in keeping our staff safe. Please report any incidents you observed where an official or official vehicle is involved.” – Health-e News

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