17 May 2018

Provincial hospitals in North West suffer as unions continue protesting

As unions claim their members won't stop protesting until demands are met, healthcare facilities in North West are on the verge of collapsing.


As protests across the North West continue in some parts, healthcare services across the province face a major crisis, with three provincial hospital forced to turn away patients.

Mahikeng Hospital has run out of medical supplies, and two of the best hospitals in the province – Tshepong Hospital in Klerkdorp and Potchefstroom Hospital – are faced with distruptions by striking workers.

Intervention from national government

There has been unrest in North West's healthcare service for over two months, resulting in national government placing the Health Department under administration. And as unions claim their members won't stop protesting until demands are met, healthcare facilities are on the verge of collapsing.

Members of trade unions Nehawu (National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union), Hospersa (Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa) and Nupsaw (National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers) have been protesting outside Potchefstroom Hospital, demanding results from government.

While Nehawu’s provincial office has appealed for the strike to be temporarily halted for a cooling off period until Wednesday, some local branches have refused to heed the call and have continued with protest action.

Nehawu has asked for the suspension of the province's Health Department head, Dr Thabo Lekalakala, and the sacking of  North West premier Supra Mahumapelo. The union said it is happy with the intervention from national government.

Ambulances not being used

“Remember we have nine issues. We know sometimes you can't get 100% results, but at least government should meet us at 60 or 70%,” said Vincent Nomzoyiya, the regional secretary of Nehawu in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district, North West.

“We are also demanding results from the forensic investigations team. We also want to know why is government using Bhuthelezi amulances while we have over 40 brand new ambulances in the province just sitting there not being used,” said Nomzoyiya.

“We are also protesting for the expansion of Potch Hospital. It recently turned 100 years, and when it was built, it was meant for Potchefstroom, Ikageng, Mohadin and Promosa. Over the last years Potchefstroom has grown, with extensions that houses close to 100 000 people. The hospital currently doesn't have enough manpower to accommodate the current population,” he said.

Hospersa's provincial chairperson in North West, Mzukisi Jam said, “The ongoing strike is because of  maladministration and corruption across the health sector in the province. Issues raised need to be addressed, our employers are not meeting our demands.”

Jam blasted government for delay tactics, saying, “The investigations have been concluded, the culprits have been identified, why isn't government taking action? The MEC is nowhere to be found. Government is not taking us seriously.”

Doctors' lives threatened

Public interest law organisation Section27 has condemned the protests, claiming they violate the rights of vulnerable people, saying even though they support protest action against North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, lives shouldn't be lost.

“The violence and distruption of healthcare services is leading to immediate loss of life as patients are denied entry to health facilities and doctors and others are prevented from providing care. Some of the reports we received include protestors invading teatres, threats to the lives of doctors, doctors being forcefully removed from hospital wards and entrances to hospital being blocked off, meaning no supplies or drugs can be delivered. We consider such forms of protest to be grossly irresponsible and morally reprehensible. The distruption will also have a long-term consequence as patients with HIV, TB and other chronic disease are unable to collect their chronic medication. Many patients will simply be lost to the system forever because record-keeping systems in the province are severely dysfunctional. This too will eventually cause loss of life,” stated Section27.

Surgeries scheduled at Potchefstroom Hospital have been cancelled, with patients claiming they fear for their lives. Doctors Without Borders together with South African National Defence Force have been assisted at Mahikeng Hospital and Job Shimankana Tabane Hospital in Rustenburg. – Health-e News.

Image credit: supplied by Health-e News


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