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Doctors and nurses down tools

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Staff members indicated that some of the local clinics had no access to water or electricity and were unable to flush the toilets

UNDERSTAFFED: Staff at the Professor ZK Matthews Hospital in Barkly West embarked on strike action due to unfavourable working conditions. They set tyres alight and prevented access to the hospital on Friday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

STAFF, including doctors and nurses, downed tools at the Professor ZK Matthews Hospital in Barkly West on Friday, where access to the premises was obstructed by rubble and burning tyres.

Medical staff said that they were critically understaffed and severely under-resourced.

“Nurses are expected to work with only half a box of syringes. They were told that no more supplies would be provided. This means that we will not be able to immunise as these syringes are out of stock. There is constantly a shortage of medication and equipment and medical professionals are forced to improvise with what they have,” the staff said.

They added that staff felt unsafe as there was not sufficient security on site. “We are constantly threatened by patients if we are unable to assist them because there are no medical supplies or medicines.

“We are only attending to emergency cases and we have left an EPWP worker in the kitchen. While we care for our patients, we are unable to do our jobs without the basic necessities. Critical funded posts have not been filled and a number of staff, including the CEO, have left or gone on pension and their posts have not been replaced.

“We are not being paid overtime although we are being stretched beyond our capabilities.”

Staff members also indicated that some of the local clinics had no access to water or electricity and were unable to flush the toilets.

“There is raw sewage running outside the hospital and it remains unattended. Staff make use of their own stationery and cellphones to do their jobs as the phone and copy machine are out of order.”

They added that psychiatric patients were kept up to two months at Professor ZK Matthews Hospital before they are transferred to the Robert Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley. “The hospital does not have the facilities to take care of them and staff are not qualified to treat them when they act out or become aggressive.”

They believed that the purchase of a R300 000 flat-screen television was a waste of money. “The television does not even work. The money could have been better spent on critical necessities.”

The spokesperson for the MEC for Health, Lebogang Majaha, said that MEC Fufe Makatong had met with the representative unions, including Denosa, Hospersa, Nehawu and the PSA, yesterday in an attempt to resolve the matter.