Nurses’ union defends KZN health chief

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Copy of ND Sibongile Zungu1 (42740104)

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Dr Sibongile Zungu, head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

Durban - Nursing union Denosa has defended the KZN health head, in the face of calls from fellow Cosatu affiliate union Nehawu for her to be axed.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA’s (Denosa) support of Dr Sibongile Zungu comes as the IFP and DA pledge support for National Education Health and Allied Workers Union mass action in protest against the renewal of Zungu’s contract which is due to end next month.

In a statement released at the weekend, Denosa provincial secretary Cassim Lekhoathi said the union would support disciplinary action being taken against Zungu should allegations of corruption be substantiated, but her good work must be recognised.

“She has done immensely well in terms of service… This is largely because of her knowledge of the health profession, which complements the MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who is also well-versed in health,” said Lekhoathi.

The union noted the inroads made by the department under Zungu’s leadership in fighting tuberculosis, HIV and child mortality.

“She has also come to the rescue of many hospitals in the province which were privately owned and were on the brink of collapse. The department took over the management of these hospitals, which saved thousands of workers and millions of community members,” said Lekhoathi.

He said the department had been more stable under Zungu’s leadership.

“While some of the challenges in the department must be accounted for by her, the chief executives at health institutions must also feature in our criticism.”

The DA said the department was “facing a crisis of management”. This was yet another reason why Zungu’s contract should not be renewed said Dr Imran Keeka, the DA spokesman on health.

Keeka said that while the party did not support strike action by essential service workers, Nehawu’s action highlighted the breakdown of trust and confidence in the department’s administration.

The shortage of ambulances, tender fraud, corruption, mismanagement of vaccines, nepotism, breakdown of equipment and the shortage of CT scanners indicated the department was in “disarray”.

“There have been calls for change within this department. And, while it rests on Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo’s shoulders to decide whether Zungu is of value to this department, the DA is urging him not to renew her contract… The people of this province deserve better,” said Keeka.

Nehawu unveiled a protest action plan last week.

IFP spokeswoman on health Ncamisile Nkwanyana said her party would throw its weight behind the action.

The party would call on the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate the department and Zungu.

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