Durban - The South African Medical Association (Sama) has thrown its weight behind nurses who have filed a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) following the murder and rape of staff at state hospitals.
Sama’s national vice-chairperson, Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, said that state medical facilities were “in crisis” as they did not have sufficient security to protect patients and doctors, who were seen as soft targets.
The KZN branch of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said that it had reported the provincial Department of Health to the SAHRC regarding the poor state of safety in health facilities in the province.
Denosa said a lack of security had led to the attack and killing of health workers and patients, which had resulted in low morale among staff who were constantly worried about their personal safety.
“After several attacks and killings inside facilities, where we don’t see the department taking drastic steps to protect patients and nurses in health-care institutions, Denosa took a decision to report all these incidents with a view that they investigate,” said Denosa KwaZulu- Natal provincial secretary, Mandla Shabangu.
Shabangu said among the incidents reported were the rape of a nurse at a nursing hostel in Nongoma and the murder of an intern doctor at Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital in Nquthu in November last year.
“We hope they’ll see the root cause of the problem for themselves, as we have been complaining for years about the poor state of security in health facilities in the province,” he said.
Mzukwa said doctors stood in solidarity with nurses on the issue of safety and had met with Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to discuss their concerns, which were prevalent at health institutions nationally. He added that several serious crimes against staff had been reported in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.
“We have had our interns attacked and there have been rape cases and we had an intern doctor, Senzo Mkhize, who was killed (in June 2011). We feel very disappointed with the Department of Health provincially and nationally because it seems that the department is not taking health and safety in the workplace as one of the important factors that will retain workers in the workplace,” Mzukwa said.
He said hospitals needed to erect physical security barriers to close porous entrances; install and fix broken CCTV surveillance cameras; and employ metal detectors and security personnel specifically trained to protect medical facilities.
KZN Department of Health spokesperson Noluthando Nkosi said the department was concerned about security at health-care facilities.
“Security weaknesses in certain areas were among the first issues that were flagged by the new administration.
“Since then, a process has been set in motion for a major overhaul and improvements,” Nkosi said.
“The department notes the action and utterances attributed to Denosa, and wishes to reiterate that the safety of members of the public who use its health-care facilities, and its staff, is paramount.”
National Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said violence at hospitals and clinics was of “serious concern”. He said violence was more prevalent in facilities located in areas where gang violence was rife.
“Provinces have been urged to work closely with the SAPS to beef up security for health workers, patients and members of the public visiting these health facilities,” he said.