Durban - Nurses at the KwaMashu Community Health Centre embarked on a wildcat protest outside the polyclinic over what they allege is poor management of the facility.

Patients, including those who came for their monthly medication, were not attended to or treated for several hours on Monday while the protest took place.

Among the grievances of the disgruntled nurses was that the nursing manager refused to give them time off to study and stifled promotions.

Mandla Shabangu, spokesman for the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said that other complaints were a shortage of medicine and other goods which was as a result of poor management of the facility.

Shabangu said there was poor communication between management and staff, which resulted in unbearable working conditions.

“It has been more than a year, but every time these problems are not being attended to by senior management at the district level.

“Grievances were taken to the district office of the Department of Health but no intervention happened. This is a departmental weakness which they are not willing to attend to, which creates a lot of dissatisfaction,” he said.

A patient, Zandile Dube, 25, who went to fetch her medication, went home empty-handed because of the protest. “I came here at 6am and I have not received my medication. I’m nervous that if I don’t take any medication today I will default and that might cause illness,” she said.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health spokesman, Sam Mkhwanazi said they were aware of the “illegal labour action”.

“The department would like to remind nursing staff that their work is classified as an essential service, which makes it illegal for them to embark on strike action. The Labour Relations Act protects the rights of both the employer and employee,” said Mkhwanazi.

He said if health workers had grievances, they should follow the proper legal processes.

“The department has put in place contingency plans to mitigate any potential negative impact of this labour action on service delivery. However, it would like to remind those health professionals who are alleged to have embarked on an illegal strike about the promises that they have solemnly made freely and upon their honour,” said Mkhwanazi.

Shabangu said the nurses returned to work later in the day.