“Imagine what it will be like in winter when we have to walk all the way around the hospital in the dark. We should not be mistreated like that”
AGGRIEVED workers at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital (RMSH) were forced to walk the extra mile after they were met with locked gates at the Lyndhurst Road side entrance when they reported for work yesterday morning.
At least 40 workers sat outside the locked gate until well after 9am before confronting the Head of Department (HOD) to demand answers.
They further claimed that they had been ill-treated by security personnel.
The decision to keep the gates locked was apparently an attempt by the department to beef up security following numerous cases of verbal abuse, attempted assaults and theft of personal and institutional property at RMSH.
According to a memorandum, dated December 18, 2019 and sent to all personnel, staff were informed that the hospital gate in Lyndhurst Street would be closed for personnel entry, and everyone was requested to use the Du Toitspan Road main entrance.
The memorandum added the Lyndhurst Road access would be used as an exit point only.
It also warned that all pedestrians would undergo a search process, except for those with name tags.
The only cars that would be allowed inside the premises would be those bearing the RMHS disks, government vehicles, Correctional Services vehicles and SAPS vehicles. Vehicles transporting very sick people and the elderly would be allowed in at the discretion of security personnel.
The group who gathered outside the Lyndhurst Road entrance yesterday was accompanied by several representatives from Denosa, Hospersa, Nehawu and PSA, who pointed out that the security measures had not been communicated to them.
According to the workers and the union representatives, the Northern Cape Department of Health had failed to take the Labour Relations Act into consideration when the new rules were implemented.
They stated that this should have been communicated to the workers by their labour unions so that they could engage with their members.
“We do not really object to the rules. The problem is that the correct consultation processes must be followed in order to engage the workers properly so that they know what is expected of them. Maybe we could have suggested proper clock machines,” one of the workers, Vincent Phuroe, said. “It seems like they have just gone ahead and implemented this system.”
The aggrieved workers also raised concerns about pedestrian staff members being searched when entering and exiting the hospital, while those in cars were not searched.
Others complained that it was too far and too dangerous for them to walk all the way around the hospital to the main entrance in Du Toitspan Road.
“Imagine what it will be like in winter when we have to walk all the way around the hospital in the dark. We should not be mistreated like that,” said one worker.
They pointed out that the taxis dropped them off at the corner of Lyndhurst and Du Toitspan roads or at the side gate.
“Even the patients, many of whom are unable to walk long distances, are now being forced to walk all the way to the casualty ward, which is just over 100 metres away. It is inhumane and often we have to assist patients by going to fetch a wheelchair and wheeling them to the casualty section.
“It is not in our job specification but we feel it is inhumane the way our employer treats our own people.
“The security guards are told to use their own discretion to allow vehicles in that are transporting patients,” said Lulama Mkwacu, one of the workers.
Some staff members indicated that there were several unreported cases where patients had collapsed at the gate after the security guards would not allow vehicles in.
Spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Health, Lulu Mxekezo, promised to issue a response today.