Staff at Nkonjeni Hospital in Mahlabathini, Kwazulu-Natal, gathered at the front gate on Friday to voice their concerns over safety and security, maintenance, and management’s silence after the rape of a nurse there last week.
However, by mid-morning, all staff had returned to their workstations.
“Nurses have returned to their duties due to management threatening discipline,” said a staff member who did not want to be named.
“Everyone was scared because the nursing manager was taking a roll call and threatening to fire people.”
A source close to the rape victim said she had not received counselling since the incident.
“Nothing has been done for her yet. She only went to see an employee assistant practitioner, not a psychologist.”
Xolani Mchunu, Athopasi Security Services owner, the company contracted to the hospital, said the nurse was working alone at the Gateway mobile clinic behind the main hospital building when she was attacked by an unknown suspect.
He said the suspect entered the clinic, identified himself as Sipho Mbatha under the pretence of looking for the victim’s colleague.
“As she was busy with her files, the suspect produced a knife and demanded she got undressed. He tore her underwear using the knife and the victim sustained thigh injury,” said Mchunu.
“While he was raping her, he received a phone call which he answered and then immediately fled the scene.”
Mchunu said, coincidentally, an off-duty matron arrived at the clinic and found the victim. The matron alerted the security personnel in the main building who rushed to the scene and called the police.
On Monday, KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu demanded answers from the company, questioning how the suspect was able to flee.
However, Mchunu said at the time of the incident, the security company did not have any staff stationed at the clinic, an issue which had been previously raised with the department.
Ayanda Zulu, provincial secretary general of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, refuted claims by staff members of victimisation by hospital management during the protest, saying the plan had been for workers to return to their duties once their memorandum of demands had been received.
“We met on Wednesday and requested that the health MEC receive our memorandum on Friday at 10am. Unfortunately, they sent the director of health for Zululand, Mr Vilakazi, to receive the memo,” he said.
Noluthando Nkosi, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health, said the department wished to apologise for any disruption caused during the protest.
“Following the adverse incident on Sunday, significant improvements have been made at the facility, which the department cannot divulge due to their sensitivity.
“Staff working at the affected section of the hospital were formally addressed on Monday. Furthermore, the hospital CEO subsequently held a meeting with organised labour.”
Colonel Thembeka Mbele police spokesperson said a case of rape has been opened at Mahlabathini police station.