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Health union threatens to turn protest ‘ugly’


“These sessional nurses only work three times a week and for five hours in a day”

WORKERS at the Galeshewe Day Hospital have threatened to strike if the Northern Cape Department of Health does not provide a response this week to their long-standing grievances.

The workers complained about being overworked due to a shortage of staff and equipment at the facility.

They accuse the department of failing to fill vacant posts after staff members resign, go on retirement or pass away.

They further accuse the department of relying on the services of “sessional” nurses instead of filling posts permanently.

“These sessional nurses only work three times a week and for five hours in a day,” they said.

The facility is also reported to be short of doctors. “One doctor is expected to attend to a long list of scheduled patients and attend to emergency cases,” said one of the staff members who wanted to remain anonymous.

The workers also highlighted the shortage of equipment and resources, which hampers service delivery.

“One thermometer has to be used throughout the facility, travelling from one consultation room to the other.”

According to the workers, they are expected to work shifts since the day hospital was turned into a 24-hour facility.

The deputy provincial secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa), Gilbert Sak, said that the workers have last received their overtime money in October 2019.

The frustrated workers feel that there has been no progress in terms of the department addressing their grievances and they have been picketing at the entrance to the hospital at lunchtime

They have now threatened to turn the protest “ugly” to put more pressure on the department, which they accuse of being irresponsible.

According to the workers, they have been pleading with the department to engage in a round-table discussion ever since they handed over their memorandum of grievances during a march in October last year.

Sak said that while their patience has run short, they have been trying not to hamper service delivery with their picketing activities.

“If there is still no sign of progress in addressing our demands then things will change and get ugly. It is up to the Department of Health as to whether the protest will turn messy or not,” said Sak.

Sak also rubbished claims that the union’s members had been on a go-slow last week.

This follows complaints by patients that they were sent home without help as the staff said they were on a go-slow because the department was failing them.

“We are more than willing to allow services to continue uninterrupted and we are available to engage. But the department should also recognise that these workers have rights.”

Meanwhile, the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) has distanced itself from the protest activities and claim to have been engaged in progressive bilateral discussions with the Department of Health regarding emergency medical services (EMS) challenges since February 11.

The provincial secretary of Hospersa, Deon Olivier, said that the union expressed confidence in the department’s willingness towards addressing the EMS challenges within the Province.

“The majority of our members are in the EMS division thus we are not aware of our members being involved in the picketing.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) confirmed that its members are taking part in the picketing.

The spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Health, Lebogang Majaha, said that a meeting is scheduled with the Galeshewe Day Hospital staff today in order to give them an update on the staffing and procurement process that is under way.

“In the best interest of strengthening relations with our health stakeholders, we opt rather not to engage organised labour through the media,” said Majaha.

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