Arrested health workers freed

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Bloemfontein - More than 100 health workers arrested for staging a sit-in at the Free State health department appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on Friday, the National Prosecuting Authority said.

Regional spokesman Phaladi Shuping said: “All of them have been released on warning. They will next appear in court on September 1st.

“The reason for the postponement is for the DPP (directorate of public prosecutions) decision on whether to proceed with the charges... “

The workers were arrested in Bloemfontein on Thursday morning.

The Treatment Action Campaign said at the time the workers, mostly older women, and the TAC took part in a vigil in an attempt to speak out against the failings and “collapse” of the Free State health system.

The vigil was staged after health workers failed to gain an audience with health MEC Benny Malakoane.

TAC general secretary Anele Yawa said the TAC had previously demanded a meeting with Malakoane following a sit-in at Bophelo House on June 27.

Section 27 said in a statement the workers were prohibited from illegal gatherings in the meantime.

The TAC in a statement welcomed the health workers' release.

“The activists and community health care workers were detained unnecessarily in harsh conditions with limited access to food and in need of critical medication for various conditions,” the TAC said..

“Those arrested included many middle-aged and elderly women workers who have served the health service for many years.”

Instead of dealing with a collapsing health system, the province was rather cracking down on peaceful campaigners for the right to health.

“Given the protest was entirely peaceful, undisruptive and with no threat to people or damage to property, we view the reaction by police as disproportionate to the actions taking place,” the TAC said.

“We call on the Free State government to explain publicly how it intends to address the collapsing health system.”

Provincial authorities also needed to reinstate all community health workers and produce a proper plan as to how community health workers would be integrated into the public health system.

“Finally we call on the Minister of Health (Aaron Motsoaledi) to urgently finalise the long overdue national policy on community health workers.”

Sapa


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