Durban – An urgent meeting that was expected to be held in KwaZulu-Natal by the health portfolio committee chairperson has been called off because of the volatile situation at several health facilities.
Protesting National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) members have brought some hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal to a complete standstill. They are demanding a 10% salary increase. The government previously tabled a 3% increase.
Some of the hospitals affected are Greys Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in uMlazi and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Cato Manor.
KZN legislature spokesperson Wesley Canham said the meeting was called by the health portfolio committee chairperson, Nomakiki Majola, to discuss the impact the public service strike was having on health service delivery in the province.
“Members, let me apologise for calling an urgent meeting on the day of party caucuses, it's because of the situation faced by our communities where they cannot get their right to health due a public service strike. We must always be on the side of the public. Looking at the situation, things are bad. We are not immune to what is felt by communities at this point,” Majola said when inviting members of the committee to the meeting.
The meeting was expected to be held on March 9, 2023 from 8am and the outcome was expected to be shared afterwards.
Officials from the Department of Health were expected to present reports on the impact of the strike.
However, Canham said: “The urgent meeting has just been called off due to the volatile situation in various health institutions and therefore the officials of the department have to attend to such. We will inform you of the next sitting of this important meeting.”
On Wednesday, KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane urged striking health-care workers to stop blocking access to health care.
“Allow health-care workers to get work so they can save lives; and do not stop patients from coming into our health facilities because if you continue to do so, you will have blood on your hands,” Simelane said.
The strike has disrupted the functioning of a number of hospitals, community health centres and clinics in the province.
Simelane said the workers’ demands fell outside the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
“It becomes very difficult to negotiate in our different corners on matters that are on a national level, and at the level of the bargaining chamber,” Simelane said.
“We expected that the leadership of the unions would understand that the majority of health-care workers are classified under essential services and, therefore, they cannot not be at work. But it becomes even worse when you have health workers who are stopping patients from accessing health-care services.
“These are people who swore under oath not to hinder people’s access to health care, which is an inalienable human right. We, therefore, call upon leaders of organised labour to desist from these actions,” she said.
Simelane thanked staff who had worked extraordinarily long shifts during the strike, including those who could not go home because of the protests.
The MEC said the department was monitoring the situation and would continue to implement contingency measures to mitigate the impact of the strike, including the continued provision of health care and catering services.
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