Maverick Citizen

HEALTH STRIKE CHAOS

Nehawu strike continues despite second interdict, leaving health facilities reeling

Nehawu strike continues despite second interdict, leaving health facilities reeling
Tyres burn at the entrance of Helen Joseph hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Cancelled surgeries, ambulances barred from hospitals, stalled medication dispensing are among the critical services affected by the health workers’ strike.

The Labour Court in Johannesburg upheld an interdict to stop a strike by National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) strike on Monday evening. The union had appealed against the interdict first filed on Saturday. 

nehawu strike

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union members protest at Dora Nginza Hospital, Eastern Cape on Monday morning. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Nehawu kicked off a countrywide strike early on Monday with reports of intimidation stopping health workers from entering or leaving health facilities, cancelled surgeries and ambulances barred from entering or leaving hospitals, with many other critical services grinding to a halt.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Wage strike hammers health services across the country

The judgment states the strike will “likely cause irreparable harm to the government and affect numerous public services including education, health, police, home affairs, social development and correctional services.

nehawu protest

Nehawu members protest outside Leratong Hospital in Kagiso on Monday, 6 March 2023. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

“The applicant submitted that the appeal has no prospects of success given that the collective agreement that the union seeks to compel the applicant to conclude would be contrary to regulated measures in the form of Public Service Regulations.”

The Department of Public Service and Administration and its Minister argued that the fiscal year had not begun and the unions, therefore, did not know the financial allocations and could not yet make demands.

KwaZulu-Natal

Nehawu’s KwaZulu-Natal branch closed 80 health facilities around the province, according to the union’s provincial secretary Ayanda Blessing Zulu. Daily Maverick has not been able to corroborate Zulu’s claim.

“The head offices of education, public works and cooperative governance were closed. Water and sanitation offices; sports, arts and culture were closed; social development were also closed. The strike is indefinite until our demands are met,” Zulu said.

Patients at Pietermaritzburg’s East Boom Community Health Centre were not able to access the facility.

Burning tyres and litter blocked the entrance to Umgeni Hospital in Howick.

Eastern Cape

nehawu protest

Protesters at Dora Nginza Hospital, Eastern Cape, burn tires. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Patients visiting the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha and Mthatha General Hospital to receive critical – and at times overdue – treatment from their doctors were angry on Monday after being told to make a new appointment for another day.

Wheelchair-bound Mzikayise Mabhongo, from Upper Xhongorha, was among those who were left frustrated on Monday afternoon when they were turned away at the gate.

“I arrived here in the morning today for a review and as you can see I am using a wheelchair. It was a hectic day. After meeting with my doctor I was told to collect medication, but the medication room was locked due to the strike. I didn’t receive any treatment today; it was just a waste of time and my money,” Mabhongo said.

nehawu protest

The strike at Leaticia Bam CHC clinic, Eastern Cape. (Photo: Supplied)

Another patient Masibe Mangiso, who also uses a wheelchair, said he was told to make another appointment for next Monday because of the strike.

“We are patients here and they are supposed to assist us. I am hiring a bakkie for R300 to get from Qunu Village to here. Today we feel neglected as patients. Government needs to take this seriously. People are going to lose their lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, Monwabisi Mesilani, who was accompanying his wife, Nombulelo Qhinga, said he was angry at how they were treated on Monday.

“We are coming from Mqanduli with R45 each in a taxi. Just imagine coming here for nothing. It’s really painful, and I don’t know what will happen to my wife overnight; she didn’t get any assistance today,” Mesilani said.

Emergency medical services elsewhere in the Eastern Cape were heavily affected. Several hospitals and clinics offered only limited services and many patients wanting to collect medication were turned away.

The dispatch of ambulances from the control room at Dora Nginza Hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay was interrupted after control room staff were removed from their workstations.

nehawu protest eastern cape

Protesting Nehawu workers at the entrance to Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital and Mthatha General Hospital on Monday. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Livingstone Hospital in Gqeberha stopped all elective surgeries and performed emergency surgery only. Protesters shut the gates to both Livingstone and Dora Nginza hospitals for a while, but they were later reopened.

Protesters burnt tyres on the road in Zwide leading to Dora Nginza Hospital, which is the centre for maternal and paediatric care in the metro. 

Health officials said they were unsure if tyres burning in the road in front of the hospital were related to the Nehawu strike.

Just before noon, a memorandum was sent from the head of the Eastern Cape health department, Dr Rolene Wagner, giving protesters two hours to return to work, saying that the principle of no work, no pay would apply.

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said four other unions were not joining the strike. He added that law enforcement agencies were deployed to deal with acts of criminality.

North West

Nehawu workers stopped people from entering health facilities and caused disruptions, according to Tebogo Lekgethwane, media and communications manager for the North West health department. 

Strikers barricaded entrances mainly around the Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp and several district hospitals such as Gelukspan District Hospital, he said.

Most health facilities in the province were affected by the strike, Lekgethwane said, but some services returned in the afternoon when the police were called in.

On Monday night, a doctor at Tshepong Hospital said no nurses had been allowed in by 8pm, patients had not received their medication and were unlikely to be served dinner.

“The strike is still ongoing,” the doctor said.

“Strikers allowed a few doctors in, but no nurses. Doctors cannot provide meds, feed patients and ensure observation is being done as well as the turning of very ill patients. So right now patients and doctors are helpless,” he said. He said they had information that the hospital management was meeting with the provincial health department but had not received an update.

Mpumalanga

Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mbombela has reportedly been closed, while Ermelo Regional Hospital in Ermelo is partially functional.

Free State

The Free State health department’s spokesperson, Mondli Mvambihave, said the department had “received information that members of Nehawu had barricaded access and disrupted services at the Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli Regional Hospital and Elizabeth Ross in Qwaqwa, Fezi Ngubentombi in Sasolburg, Boitumelo Hospital in Kroonstad and Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein”.

He said the department had contacted law enforcement agencies to ensure patients’ constitutional right to health was not infringed by those participating in the strike. “It is unclear so far as to who is actively participating in the strike as services have not ground to a complete halt,” he said. 

Health workers confirmed to Daily Maverick earlier on Monday that Pelonomi and Universitas hospitals had been affected, with protesters blocking the entrances to both, resulting in surgery being cancelled. 

In many cases patients had been waiting months for critical surgery, a doctor confirmed. No nursing or support staff were allowed to enter Pelonomi to work. 

“The protesters were incredibly militant and aggressive, burning tyres and throwing rocks at vehicles,” said a health worker. 

Gauteng

nehawu protest

Nehawu members outside Leratong Hospital in Kagiso on Monday. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

The gates at Leratong Hospital in Krugersdorp reportedly closed at about 4am, preventing anybody from entering or leaving the hospital. A skeleton staff ventilated patients in the wards. 

Staff working the night shift at the hospital were met with burning tyres blocking movement in and out of the hospital. 

nehawu protest

Carletonville Hospital, patients couldn’t access health services. (Photo: Twitter)

Patients seeking help at Carletonville Hospital were sent home. The hospital issued a statement on its Facebook page, urging patients and visitors to exercise caution when accessing the facility, and said it was working on mitigating any risk related to service delivery disruption as a result of the national strike. 

We remain open for emergency cases and EMS will continue to service critical cases,” the statement added. 

Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in Vosloorus, Helen Joseph Hospital in Auckland Park, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, and Dr Yusuf Dadoo Hospital in Krugersdorp were reportedly also affected. The entrances to Helen Joseph Hospital and Chris Hani Baragwanath were blocked with burning tyres.

nehawu strike

Thapelo Nokoane leads Nehawu protesters in song outside Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg on Monday. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Affected Gauteng facilities also include Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital, Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital, Tembisa Provincial Tertiary Hospital, Goba Clinic, Magagula Clinic, in Ekurhuleni, Kopanong Hospital, Sebokeng Regional Hospital, Heidelberg District Hospital, Johan Heyns Community Health Centre, Levai Mbatha Community Health Centre, Sebokeng Zone 17 Clinic in Sedibeng and West Rand District Hospital.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Hospital strikes cause disruptions as public servants down tools, Chris Hani Baragwanath hardest hit 

Motalatale Modiba of the Gauteng health department confirmed that in some instances ambulances were unable to attend to emergencies because they were unable to leave or enter facilities that had been blocked by protesters. 

“This is affecting the Gauteng Emergency Medical Services’ incident response time, leading to delays in responding to distress calls from the public,” Modiba added. DM/MC

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Confucious Says says:

    Another vocation down the tube. Teachers and nurses now in it for the money and not the passion. Unions creating mayhem to stay valid.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    This is horrific in every sense. Gratitude to the brave soulsworking around the clock to try and sustain the lives that the smiling, singing, destructive union thugs are gleefully taking away by blocking all of these essential services and access to healthcare. And once again, it is the poor and vulnerable that are suffering.

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