Durban – The DA has decided to ask the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) strike action.
This was according to DA health spokesperson Michele Clarke who said: “In light of the severe damage to the public health sector and the detrimental impact on patients, the DA will request that the South African Human Rights Commission investigate the Nehawu strike.”
Health-care workers are demanding a 10% wage increase after the government tabled a 3% increase.
Clarke said that since the strike began, the DA had engaged with public health sector stakeholders.
“Our findings concur with media reports. The hospitals and clinics that aren’t crippled by the strike are being overrun by the patients diverted there – and buckling under the pressure. We commend these public health facilities for doing their best to serve the public under extremely difficult circumstances and provide the best possible care. However, the situation is unsustainable,” she said.
She said Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla had confirmed that the death toll was rising. “Patients and staff are being barred access to health facilities and intimidated and threatened – often in full view of the police who rarely intervene. Hospitals are filthy, and at many facilities all but the most infirm patients have had to be discharged. The impact on the health of the discharged patients and other members of the public that seek care might be immense.
“It is time Nehawu brings the strike to an end. Yesterday (Monday), the Labour Appeal Court interdicted this strike action which includes essential workers in the health sector. This bars them from participating in pickets, strikes or industrial action,” Clarke said.
She said that while the party had sympathy for public health practitioners who worked in horrendous circumstances, a wage dispute could not supersede the oath of care.
Earlier, Phaahla said that the strike had disrupted the provision of essential health-care services in the country, leading to untold suffering and frustration among the public who desperately needed health care, some even life-saving treatment, and other services at the public health facilities.
“It is regrettable that this strike action has gone on causing untold hardship, pain, frustration and possible loss of life in its cause while it could have been avoided. It is inconceivable that leadership of Nehawu were oblivious to the provisions of our law in this regard,” Phaahla said.
“The court order unequivocally calls on Nehawu leadership to inform and call on all their essential services members to return to work with immediate effect. In consideration of practicality we have given the workers in the health sector until tomorrow morning to report to work, failing which they will be in contempt of court and liable to face charges of misconduct.”
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