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Hospital workers’ silent protest

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“How can patients be treated when there is shortage of staff, no resources, and no ambulances to transport them”

SILENT PROTEST: Workers from the Galeshewe Day Hospital stood with placards inside the Convention Centre while the Premier was delivering his State of the Province Address. Picture: Danie van der Lith

IN A desperate attempt to have their grievances heard, workers of the Galeshewe Day Hospital (GDH) engaged in a silent protest at yesterday’s State of the Province Address (Sopa).

The workers, who initially gathered in the foyer of the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre, silently walked in in single file to stand near the podium where Northern Cape Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, was delivering his address.

Using their placards to call for the axing of the MEC of Health, Mase Manopole, the workers accused Manopole of being responsible for the collapse of the provincial health system.

They were represented by Nehawu, Denosa, Hospersa and PSA.

The workers later walked out of Zamani’s speech, and demanded that he address them.

According to the workers, they are “sick and tired of the empty promises” being made by the government.

They accused Manopole of being more of a populist or a celebrity than a leader, adding that despite continuous engagements and promises from her, there was no implementation or action.

“How can we be expected to take her seriously when she is smiling to the camera at Sopa while her department is in shambles with staff burning tyres and demanding her removal,” they asked.

They added that several health institutions in the Province had been shut down as the health crisis escalated.

“How can patients be treated when there is shortage of staff, no resources, and no ambulances to transport them,” deputy provincial secretary of Denosa, Gilbert Sak, asked.

The department was also accused of exploiting Community Healthcare Workers and EPWP workers to do work that staff members were not being paid for.

“Clinics are suffering as sisters have to run around to exchange equipment. The nurses from Robert Sobukwe Hospital also have to work at the new mental hospital, where they are exposed to dangerous working conditions.

“Student nurses do not have books to complete their training. Community health workers are being used as clerks, and fill the gaps at hospitals but end up being overlooked when appointments are made for permanent posts,” Sak added.

The workers pointed out that instead of investing in staff and equipment, the department had installed cameras that are not working, built carports and purchased grass cutters at the Galeshewe Day Hospital.

“That is not what we want, we want to deliver services at an institution that has had a good reputation for many years.”

Their protest action, however, was not welcomed by Saul, who immediately after his Sopa address, confronted the workers and accused them of pulling a publicity stunt.

“Why are you coming here,” he asked angrily. “This is not the way to engage. There is not a single occasion where people went to my office and were not able to speak to me.

“If you have issues you come to my office and I will speak to you. If you engage us in the wrong way you will trigger us to engage in the wrong way,” Saul said before walking away.

In his address, Saul acknowledged that the Province was being confronted with massive challenges in the public health sector.

“With my work at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukhwe Hospital and unannounced visits to many health care centres in the Province, I realised that we are being confronted with massive challenges. We have started attending to all these challenges.”

He said that it was for this reason that the government had chosen to undertake a major reform of the health care system under the banner of the National Health Insurance (NHI).

“In our Province NHI started with a pilot project in the Pixley ka Seme District. Together with the experience of other pilot districts in the country, we have learnt how the healthcare system can be significantly improved based on values of justice, fairness and social solidarity to leave no patient without the services they need. We have established an NHI Task Team responsible for the next phase of rolling out NHI.”

Saul further said that the opening of the new Northern Cape Mental Health Hospital in September last year was “long-awaited”.

“This has allowed for major improvement for patients on two fronts. Firstly, we have been able to transfer the mentally ill patients from the old West End Hospital to the brand new facility. Secondly, it has allowed us to transfer the 72-hour mental health assessment patients from Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital to the new Mental Health Hospital.”