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
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