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Health workers threaten to shut down clinics

Workers closed the gates to Ma Doyle Clinic in Galeshewe. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Community health workers have threatened to shut down all clinics in the Frances Baard District in protest against the non-payment of social grants.

COMMUNITY health workers (CHWs) have threatened to shut down all clinics in the Frances Baard District due to the non-payment of social grants, including child support, foster care and disability grants, to CHWs.

The gates to Ma Doyle Clinic in Galeshewe were closed on Wednesday, while protests continued at the Galeshewe Day Hospital on Thursday.

Health workers threatened yesterday that protest action would spread to all clinics in the Frances Baard District.

“If we don’t get any satisfactory answers, we will also shut down Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital. ANC mothers should not give birth at Galeshewe Day Hospital because we are hungry and are not able to feed our dependants. We depend on the grants because we get paid so little. Some of us have children with disabilities and these grants were also stopped. We also want to be permanently employed by the Department of Health,” said the health workers.

The provincial organiser of the South African Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (Salipswu), Thapelo Thole, said that CHWs were informed that, according to the Persal system, they were earning in excess of R8,500, however, they were only receiving stipends of R3,633.

“None of the care workers received any increases although they might have received outstanding money that was backdated to 2018,” said Thole.

“Care workers were informed that they would be subjected to an audit by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa). Any monies that they were not entitled to will have to be paid back. They were advised that they did not qualify for a social grant if their spouses were employed by government. Care workers are being painted as thieves while they are struggling to survive and take care of their children.”

Thole added that CHWs did not receive any bonuses, unemployment benefits, pension or medical aid as they were not permanent employees of the Department of Health.

He noted that none of the union’s members were authorised to embark on strike action.

The Northern Cape Department of Health did not respond to media enquiries at the time of publication.

A memorandum that was circulated by the Department of Health did, however, distance the department from the allegations.

“The department will not pay CHWs a stipend that is outside the agreed amount stipulated in terms of resolution No 1 of 2018, 2 of 2019 and 2 of 2020, clause 5.5 culminating into extension through resolution 1 of 2021.

“The Department of Health pays CHWs a stipend of 3,633 as per correspondence from national.

“The department is in no way responsible and will not accept any blame for the challenges that CHWs are facing with regard to the Sassa grants.”

It added that the department would not subject CHWs to a situation that would compromise their “prescribed subsistence means”.

“The department would like to caution those responsible for peddling misinformation, that aims to tarnish the image of the department, to refrain from doing so.”

Community health workers at the Galeshewe Day Hospital. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Sassa national spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said that the social grants of a number of public servants were suspended in line with regulations during a routine check that was conducted in September 2021 while Sassa did not have updated information on their income.

“It has since come to our attention that many of those whose grants were suspended were interns, EPWP and general workers, whose income would not exclude them from receiving the grant.”

Letsatsi stated that Sassa was in the process of reconsidering the individual circumstances of the affected beneficiaries and would reinstate their grants.

“However, all those affected will still be required to review their grants and provide updated information on their employment and marital status, to ensure compliance with the legislation. These reviews must be done at the local Sassa offices.”

He explained that Sassa only processed grant payments to beneficiaries that met the qualifying criteria.

“This means that every beneficiary has a responsibility to inform Sassa of any changes to their personal circumstances, such as changes to their marital or employment status.”

Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula requested patience from grant beneficiaries in resolving the matter.

“We urge those affected to bear with us for the inconvenience. We will do everything in our power to resolve this matter as soon as possible. However, we also wish to remind all beneficiaries that any change in their circumstances must be reported to Sassa as soon after the change as possible, to avoid a repetition of this situation.”

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