MEMBERS of the South African Liberated Public Service Workers’ Union (Salipswu) have expressed concern regarding the Northern Cape Department of Health’s decision to switch NGOs that provide crucial services at clinics in the Province.
The services provided by the NGOs include TB testing and those employed by the current NGOs now fear that the decision could leave them without a job.
Earlier this week caregivers at the Betty Gaetsewe Clinic downed tools after learning that a decision had been taken to use new NGOs in future. According to them, the decision by the Department of Health was made without consulting the staff of the current NGOs contracted to provide these services.
Although they returned to work, a meeting between the union and departmental officials took place yesterday afternoon, where it was apparently decided that the matter needed further consultation involving the various role-players.
According to union spokesperson, Thapelo Thole, the caregivers’ grievances stemmed from the fact that there had been no consultation between them and the department before it was decided that new NGOs would be used.
Thole said that Salipswu had been informed that a new NGO would be instated before the end of the financial year, but the decision caught their members off guard and raised concerns that this could impact on patients.
He added that the decision affected more than 300 caregivers, representing four NGOs in the district.
“Most of these caregivers have been working for the same NGO for between 10 and 12 years,” Thole said yesterday. “On Monday workers from the Betty Gaetsewe Clinic went on strike and closed down the facility.
“I was escorted by members of the police to gain clarity from the management of the NGO and was informed that the matter is currently with their legal department.
“We will not accept the way the department has dealt with the situation. We knew that there were going to be new NGOs, but our members are now coming to us because their patients are no longer coming to them.
“The new NGO told us that they are doing research, which we completely accept, as long as it is to the benefit of the community and does not impact on our caregivers.”
Thole said that workers decided to return to the clinic and end the strike.
However, if the situation is not resolved quickly members might once again down tools and involve workers at other clinics.
“The department’s decision to change NGOs without consultation with the people servicing members of the public could soon have an impact on other workers, including peer educators.
“The change in NGOs is going to hit clinics across the Northern Cape and the workers are not happy.”
Spokesperson for Health in the Province, Lulu Mxekezo, said the department would only respond to questions today.