Durban - Disabled emergency call centre operator Janine Loydd, who was badly injured when she was crushed by elevator doors while at work in Natalia House in Pietermaritzburg last year, claims she was fired by the KwaZulu-Natal health department because of her disability.
Now Loydd wants her medical bills paid and her job back, claiming she was unfairly dismissed.
Her plight comes ahead of the international day of persons with disabilities on Monday, acknowledging more than one billion people who live with some form of disability.
Loydd was disabled when she was shot in the head in 1992 and lost the use of her left arm and leg. In February 2010, while entering a disabled-friendly lift in a government building, she was crushed by closing doors.
“I was found unconscious by other employees who called paramedics. I was told that I had had five seizures.”
Loydd says she is crippled by pain following the incident, and has suffered several seizures and a stroke.
“My doctors chose to keep me from work because of my injuries and, while I was off, I was served with a notice to appear at a disciplinary hearing for misconduct, and it made no reference of what I had done.
“I went for the hearing and it never took place. All of a sudden I received a letter saying I had been dismissed for absconding, even though I had submitted all of my injury on duty documents,” she said.
Saddled with mounting medical bills and chronic debilitating pain, Loydd says life has become unbearable.
“I had always fought to be independent regardless of my disability, and I led a normal life. I could do anything with my one hand and one leg. Now I am in constant pain and I hardly sleep. My life is hell and, having lost my income, I cannot afford to pay for the medication that eases all the symptoms of my injuries.”
She added that she is now confined to a wheelchair.
“I have received calls from the hospital demanding payment for the outstanding bills that the health department should have paid, because I was injured while working,” she said.
Unable to afford medication and without work, Loydd said her savings were on the verge of running dry.
“I believe strongly that I was unfairly dismissed and that I was an asset to the emergency call centre. I loved my position and I have a passion for helping others. My injury was the result of a lack of maintenance of the department’s lifts and was no fault of mine, yet I am being punished for it.”
Loydd wants her job and believes that the provincial Department of Health should accept responsibility for her diminished quality of life. “I believe that I should be compensated and I’m entitled to have my position re-instated. I was offered the position with the call centre because I was disabled and the call centre was structured around a physically challenged environment, yet I have been discriminated against because of my disability. In dismissing me, many labour laws were broken and a private lawyer even said that it would be a clear win on my side, but I don’t have the funds to employ him.”
She added that she had written several letters to the health department and health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, all of which have gone unanswered.
In her letter she begs Department of Health management to investigate her “unfair dismissal”.
“I hope that after reading this letter you will be convinced to do what is right and fair in this terrible case of injustice,” she wrote.
The Sunday Tribune has seen a letter from the Department of Labour, advising Loydd’s former management that they are liable for her full salary and all medical costs incurred as a result of her injury at work.
Health department spokesman Desmond Motha said that labour department officials were unable to source Loydd’s employment record before going to press and, as a result, he was not in a position to comment.