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Community health workers shut down city clinics

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Patients have been left stranded and complained on Monday that they have been denied access to medical treatment since last week due to the protest action.

Striking community health workers shut down clinics from last week. Picture: Supplied

MOST of the clinics in Kimberley remained closed on Monday after being shut down by striking community health workers (CHWs).

The closures started last week after CHWs joined the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) strike action, demanding the permanent absorption of CHWs by the Department of Health.

Patients have been left stranded and complained on Monday that they have been denied access to medical treatment since last week due to the protest action.

The hopes of some patients, who started queueing at clinics in the city early on Monday morning, were dashed after permanent staff members were allegedly intimidated and “dismissed” by striking CHWs.

A patient at the Floors Clinic was reportedly forced to leave with a drip still attached to his arm.

Floors was among the few clinics in Kimberley that opened on Monday morning, but it was shut down by the striking workers.

A number of calls were made to the Department of Health as patients were suffering and many could not get their chronic medication.

No confirmation could be given as to which clinics were operating on Monday, apart from the Galeshewe Day Hospital (GDH) where most of the desperate patients flocked to for medical attention.

The GDH was targeted on Friday when the protesters threw faeces at the entrance and inside the institution.

On Monday there was a heavy security presence at the GDH and the protesters picketed at the entrance gate while work continued as normal inside the facility.

Nehawu threatened last week that the strike action would be intensified this week if it does not receive an update from the Northern Cape Department of Health as to how many CHWs will be absorbed.

The union wants to know how many of its CHWs will be absorbed following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that only 6,000 workers will be absorbed nationally.

Nehawu indicated on Monday that the department should be blamed for the lack of health care services.

The provincial secretary of Nehawu, Stefan Cornelius, said the union also demands to know how far the department is in terms of overtime payments for its members who were working during the Covid-19 peak.

Cornelius said they had a brief engagement with the MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene, on the weekend.

He said the MEC could not give them anything “concrete” in regards to the allocation for the Province, but promised to give the union an update on Friday.

“In the meantime, the strike action continues,” Cornelius said.

Department spokesperson Lebogang Majaha said on Monday that they could not do anything at a provincial level to get the workers to return to work as it is a national strike action.