Durban - Trade unions have claimed they repeatedly spoke to the Department of Health about their fears on the state of security at health facilities around the province.
The unions were reacting to a nurse being raped at a government hospital in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.
The department said a man apparently entered the hospital under the pretence of needing medical assistance.
It is alleged he went to a consulting room where he overpowered the lone nurse, raped her and left.
When police arrived, the man could not be found.
Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane- Zulu condemned the incident and said it raised serious questions about security arrangements at this hospital.
“If we’re going to pay for security and this happens, it means we aren’t paying for a service. Our responsibility is to take care of our nurses and everyone who works in the department.”
She has demanded a full report from management of the district concerned, as well as from their security unit at head office, on how the incident happened.
“It just can’t be allowed, and sends the wrong message in terms of the safety of our own staff and patients themselves, which is paramount to us.
“Therefore, I want to know what’s going to be done to prevent a recurrence of such an incident, so that our staff can rest assured that they are safe,” she said.
Trade unions said security was a long-standing issue at government health facilities. Mike Shabane, provincial organiser at the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, said they had been talking to government about this for years but to no avail, and had encouraged nurses to sue the department when such incidents occurred.
Shabane claimed security companies that were awarded these tenders often cut corners to save money when providing their services at government facilities.
Ayanda Zulu, provincial spokesperson for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, said they too had spoken about this fear for a long time with the department without any progress.
They had started a campaign around safety and security at health facilities. He said the nurse who was raped was one of their members.
Zulu said they had been lobbying for the insourcing of security services at hospitals as this would increase accountability. “It isn’t only government that needs to step up, but local communities around the health facilities, because some of these criminals come from the communities where the health facilities are located.”
Zulu said they would be visiting the hospital tomorrow.
Dr Zanele Bikitsha, KZN Coastal chairperson of the South African Medical Association, said they planned to go on a campaign. She felt the department needed to step up its security by introducing cameras, biometric access and improved lighting in dark parts of hospitals and other government health facilities.
“The lack of safety in hospitals is very serious. What’s sad is that the country is dealing with a problem of gender-based violence. It’s high time that the concerns of health workers are taken seriously,” she said.