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Johannesburg - A number of NGO-employed caregivers in Gauteng have been on strike for two weeks because the provincial health department has not paid their employers, the DA said on Thursday.

“More than 400 NGOs have petitioned the department to continue their contracts to provide home-based care to thousands of needy people around the province, but have not received any response,” DA spokesman Jack Bloom said in a statement.

The caregivers, who help mainly terminally ill patients and those with HIV, visit sick people in their homes to bathe them and ensure that they have food and clean bedding.

Gauteng health department spokesman Simon Zwane said most NGOs had been paid.

“However, there are a few who have not finalised their contracts with the department.

“The matter is being attended to and payments will be made as soon as (the) contracts have been concluded.”

Bloom said that on Wednesday he visited one of the NGOs, Westbury Aids Support Group (WASG), which had problems with payment.

“They usually receive R147 000 every quarter from the Gauteng health department, but were paid late for the April to June quarter and the department is delaying the renewal of their contract.”

WASG caregivers were only doing emergency visits to terminally ill patients.

“Payments must be resumed to the NGOs as soon as possible so that the caregivers can continue to do their valuable work.”

Bloom urged the public to spare a thought for those who were not receiving NGO home-based care on Mandela Day due to non-payment.

In 2009, July 18 was declared as Mandela Day to honour former president Nelson Mandela.

People were encouraged to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to nation-building and charity in recognition of his years of service towards securing democracy and restoring human dignity.

Mandela is spending his 95th birthday in the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, where he is being treated for a recurring lung infection.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement earlier that Madiba's health was steadily improving. - Sapa