Maverick Citizen

DEATH STRIKE

‘Victory for innocent patients’ — few disruptions at health facilities after Labour Appeal Court interdict

‘Victory for innocent patients’ — few disruptions at health facilities after Labour Appeal Court interdict
Nehawu Members protest at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto on 13 March 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

At a media briefing on Sunday, the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said that on Monday, 13 March, it would intensify its strike for better wages and conditions. However, an interdict from the Labour Appeal Court seems to have halted momentum as minimal disruptions were reported at health facilities across South Africa.

On Monday, the Labour Appeal Court interdicted with immediate effect the strike action by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu). The court also restrained Nehawu and its members and workers employed at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute from continuing with the strike.

nehawu cape town

Nehawu members protest at the Barrack Street Home Affairs office in Cape Town on 13 March 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Misha Jordaan)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Labour Appeal Court orders Nehawu to inform members of strike interdict or face legal consequences 

Lwazi Nkolonzi, Nehawu’s national spokesperson, acknowledged the ruling. “Our legal team is studying that judgment and we will be meeting with them later this evening and we will deliberate on the way forward,” he said.

Gauteng

nehawu leratong

People are granted access to Leratong Hospital in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, amid the Nehawu protest on 13 March 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

nehawu pimville

Nehawu members protest at the Department of Education D14 District office in Pimville in Soweto on 13 March 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla visited Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in Vosloorus, where army officials were stationed outside and at least 20 military nurses were deployed because of shortages caused by the strike. Phaahla revealed last week that there had been four deaths as a direct result of the strike, but that the number could be higher.

“We are getting more [numbers]. I can tell that we are not standing at four [reported deaths]. We want to be cautious with accuracy. We are currently getting all clinical data. At this stage, there are more than four [deaths] that we have received,” he said.

nehawu baragwanath

Nehawu Members protest at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto on 13 March 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

There were reports of peaceful picketing and a police presence at the main gate of Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.  

Free State

Mondli Mvambi, the spokesperson for the Free State Department of Health, confirmed there had been no fire on Monday at Pelonomi Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein, despite the municipal fire department responding to an anonymous tip-off of a blaze at the hospital’s linen bank. 

nehawu pelonomi

The Bloemfontein fire department responded to an anonymous tip-off of a blaze at Pelonomi Hospital’s linen bank, but it turned out the call was a hoax. Above, firefighters examine the aftermath of an unreported fire at the linen bank that happened last Monday, 6 March. (Photo: Supplied)

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Clean linen is delivered to Pelonomi Hospital, Bloemfontein, Free State, after linen had been set alight on 6 March 2023. (Photo: Supplied)

“We can assure the public that indeed a fire did occur at this place about a week ago. We are told that [it was] on Monday… 6 March… but no one reported that,” he said. The hospital received fresh linen today.

“We do, however, suspect that it is a prank aimed at causing confusion and panic as has been the norm throughout the strike,” Mvambi said.

There were no reports of disruptions at the hospital on Monday. It had been a frequent target last week.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Patients discharged from Free State hospitals at a frantic rate while interdict stalls a total shutdown  

Mvambi said the department would keep a close eye on the situation at Pelonomi.

There was minimal absenteeism at Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein where the situation was calm.

“We have also been updated that earlier today there were opportunistic acts of disruption at Universitas Referrals and Maternity [departments]. The strikers allegedly trashed the ward and tried to force working personnel out, but this failed as soon as security personnel were activated,” Mvambi said.

Fezi Ngubentombi Provincial Hospital in Sasolburg was picketed by strikers, but officials and patients were granted access to the facility. 

Striking workers gathered peacefully at National District Hospital in Bloemfontein, which was adequately staffed despite the strike.  

Services ran smoothly at Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom, despite the theatre department experiencing multiple absences attributed to sick leave. “Managers are putting mitigating measures in place for business continuity and patient care,” said Mvambi.

There were no strikers at the gates of Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli Hospital in QwaQwa, where most employees were back at work. Free State Medical Depot also had no reported strike activity, with officials at work.

North West 

Nurses were on duty at Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp. However, they reportedly received WhatsApp messages from striking staff threatening to come in to remove them. There were also reports that strikers were outside, but not blocking staff or patients from accessing the hospital. The hospital has received military assistance.  

Eastern Cape

There were reports of limited staff being present at Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital and the police were onsite monitoring the situation.  

Mpumalanga 

There were reports that Phola Nsikazi Clinic in Phola was closed with protesters gathered peacefully outside.

National Department of Health

The National Department of Health welcomed the court judgment. It said it believed Nehawu would abide by the judgment and inform its members to return to work as soon as possible.

“We believe this judgment will bring some form of stability to health facilities across the country. This is a victory for the innocent, vulnerable and non-unionised patients who have suffered the consequences of the disruptive and violent strike action,” said the department. DM/MC

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