Johannesburg - Netcare 911 has been rocked by allegations of racism after several staff were labelled criminals by the head of the emergency operations centre (EOC), the unit that runs the call centre for members of the public who seek urgent medical attention.
This was revealed in leaked emails which IOL has seen. The emails form part of a grievance case against the head of the EOC, FG Kloppers.
Netcare 911 is aware of the emails which purport to show that the matter was swept under the carpet and subsequent disciplinary proceedings were filed against some senior staff members who work with Kloppers.
Over the past two years, EOC staff have complained to the human resources manager, Sibusiso Vilakazi. However, the company allegedly considered the matter closed when Kloppers apologised after the incident, they said.
Netcare said it was handling the matter internally.
Sources said there was a culture of fear at Netcare 911’s EOC as Kloppers allegedly ran the unit with an iron fist, often clashing with staff, particularly women of colour, who were subjected to disciplinary proceedings and routinely threatened with their jobs.
They allege Kloppers and Vilakazi worked in cahoots to enforce that.
IOL contacted Kloppers and Vilakazi by phone on Thursday afternoon. Both declined to comment, referring queries to Netcare’s media team.
In an e-mailed complaint to Vilakazi in July last year, one of the staff members reported Kloppers’s behaviour after he called a group of five female staff criminals, after they had expressed concern about being possibly exposed to the coronavirus by an ill co-worker.
The names of the women are known to IOL.
“We asked for a meeting with him when he gets to the office.
“He then started calling us criminals, stupid, idiots and that the company spent billions on the s*** that we were supposed to put on our faces for protecting ourselves, the e-mail reads.
“He then asked L**** to take these idiots out of his face and test us as we are declared as PUI (persons under investigation).
“He further told us that from now on we should not tell him what to do and that we will hear from him with regards to when we should come back to work and we are lucky to still be wearing Netcare uniform.”
It was alleged that Kloppers told the women nothing would be done to him should they complain to HR. He then allegedly threatened to fire them.
“He further indicated that by the time he’s done with us, we can go to HR to complain and he will apologize should he be advised to.
“He also said that he will fire us, and we can go (to the) CCMA it will not help. Then he left. He didn’t even give us time to explain the reason why we wanted to see him.
“As a Netcare employee I feel emotionally abused.”
Eight months later, the matter has yet to be resolved. The staff have not heard from HR since laying the complaint.
Netcare human resources director Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba said they would not be responding to IOL’s questions about the allegations.
However, he did say: “The Netcare Group has very clear policies against any form of discrimination and any allegation to the contrary is thoroughly investigated. Our policies and processes are in place to ensure that colleagues are treated with dignity and fairness while promoting an inclusive work environment.
“We do not tolerate prejudice in our working environments.
“We appreciate your offer for us to comment on the allegations, as it seems the way these matters have been presented to you differs from our understanding of the circumstances. It would, however, be inappropriate for us to comment publicly on the details of an internal human resources process which is currently still under way.”
Ndzwayiba confirmed that “concerns raised from different perspectives” were being investigated “to protect the integrity and legitimacy of the processes”.
“As always, where an individual is dissatisfied with the findings, it is their right to appeal the outcome of a ruling, as is being done in this instance.”
Ndzwayiba said the CCMA was an avenue available to employees and they had faith in it.
In another issue involving a critical care operations manager at the EOC, Kloppers has been accused of pushing a woman of colour out of his department in favour of a white man.
The woman is set to appear before a disciplinary inquiry for alleged misconduct, dishonesty, intimidation and negligence in carrying out her duties.
The woman, in a detailed grievance letter, which IOL has seen, says Kloppers called her stupid, worthless, a disgrace and told her to “get your head out of your a***” during his alleged derogatory rants in the past year.
She also instituted a grievance against Kloppers.
In her submissions, the woman said she had been told by Vilakazi that Kloppers was unwilling to work with her and that she should consider moving to the aeromedical division or risk being fired.
Vilakazi allegedly told her not to be naive about Kloppers’s intentions and promised her that the funds for her MBA studies would be paid should she move divisions.
“I felt that Vilakazi’s conduct was wholly inappropriate in asking me to relinquish my job title and exit the EOC.
“This shows the biased nature of the HR manager as he is always looking into Kloppers best interests, whilst the rest of individuals in the EOC suffer at his hands,” she said.
The woman said Kloppers’s behaviour was concerning, particularly for women.
“My concern is that we work in an environment where we are dealing with people’s lives in emergency situations. Kloppers behavior is so misguided and abusive that we place ourselves at risk by making irrational decisions due to us as employees being emotional regarding the treatment and behavior we are subjected to.”
In February, a regional manager in the critical care division wrote to Ndzwayiba, the group HR director, calling on him to institute an independent investigation into Kloppers’s conduct at the EOC and his alleged mistreatment of employees.
“I am aware that I may get suspended and even lose my job but if it means being fired because I’m standing for what’s right and standing for the 100 employees in the EOC including managers , then I’ll be at peace knowing that I did nothing wrong,” said the manager in his letter to Ndzayiba.
“I witnessed the horrific dehumanising manner in which Mr Kloppers dealt with his managers and went as far as threatening them that HR won’t do anything and if they go to CCMA, Mr Ritesh Desai will give him money to payout the individual.
“This is the leadership that has engulfed the EOC and no one wants to talk because of fear of being victimized, bullied and eventually dismissed.”
The manager said that if a full-scale investigation was ordered and it uncovered no wrongdoing on Kloppers's part, he would resign.