Durban - Protests have disrupted services at three KwaZulu-Natal hospitals.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health in a statement on Tuesday said health services had been compromised at the Prince Mshiyeni, Montebello and East Griqualand & Usher Memorial hospitals.
Striking outsourced workers on Tuesday picketed at the gate of uMlazi’s Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, turning away food delivery trucks.
The department said police had to be called in to restore order after protesters locked the gate with a chain.
Sections of the hospital were also deliberately flooded, causing damage to stationery and hospital equipment, the department said.
It was not clear whether the few permanent catering staff – who were were not on strike – were able to provide meals for patients in the 1 200-bed regional hospital.
Late on Monday, according to the department, a crowd of about 100 barricaded the road and locked the main gate at Montebello Hospital in Ndwedwe, north of Durban, preventing access.
“The situation has remained tense since then, and the hospital was unable to admit or discharge patients.”
The department said the local community was unhappy about the processes followed in the appointment of a general orderly at the hospital.
Patients were now being referred to neighbouring health facilities and an urgent meeting has been convened to resolve the matter.
There were disruptions at the East Griqualand & Usher Memorial Hospital in Kokstad when people wearing political party regalia, stormed the hospital and demanded to speak to the chief executive.
Two neighbouring clinics were closed as a precaution, the department said.
The South African Public Service Union (Sapsu) is leading the charge for outsourced workers at Prince Mshiyeni,, to be given permanent jobs.
Sapsu national general secretary, Moses Tsotetsi, said the government should lead by example and comply with the law by ending labour brokering and outsourcing.
Tsotetsi quoted amendments to the Labour Relations Act which came into effect on April 1, which state that: “Fixed term contracts cannot exceed 3 months, unless justifiable reason can be shown…”
He said: “The government is duty-bound to employ them permanently.”
Tsotetsi believes the government should take the lead in complying with the act as the “custodians” of the laws of South Africa.
This would mean workers earned a reasonable living wage while the government would save money by not having to pay the inflated fees charged by brokers for workers.
“These companies are stealing from the workers. Government is giving the wrong people money, they need to cut out the middle man.
“It’s a reasonable argument and has been a call for years. Labour brokers must be abolished,” he said.
At the hospital, workers claimed they had given a deadline of 5pm for a response, but were promised one by 3pm.
When this did not materialise, they downed tools on Tuesday and began picketing.
A woman who works as a ward hostess told the Daily News that they worked 12-hour shifts and earned R2 800 a month.
Night shift staff earned an extra R200, but had to dish out and deliver food to six 40-patient wards, per person.
Security officers also worked 12-hour days for R3 400 a month, but claimed they had to buy their own uniforms and were fined if they did not wear the required attire.
Also on Tuesday, outsourced workers protested at Mangosuthu University of Technology in uMlazi.
The #OutscourcingMustFall struggle had been won at other institutions around the country, and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in this province.
A task team to investigate the feasibility of directly employing staff at the Durban University of Technology would report back next month.
This was after 30 cleaners and security officers were arrested and subsequently released, but dismissed by their employers for picketing in protest against labour brokering and outsourcing in March.
At MUT on Tuesday, private security officers were alleged to have shot pellets at the protesters, injuring at least three people.
In an e-mailed response to the Daily News, the MUT said it did not recognise Sapsu and was in meetings with the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union on the outsourcing matter. “MUT earlier this year appointed a task team that is looking specifically at the issue of outsourcing,” read the statement.