Health department moves out of ’sick’ Civitas building
Pretoria - After years of staff complaints, reports of injury and illness on duty and a court battle, the national Department of Health is moving from the Civitas building in downtown Pretoria.
While plans for a new head office building are finalised, the department’s city-based staff will be moving to the old Exxaro building in Pretoria West.
This follows protests over the past two years by workers unions, including the Public Service Association (PSA) and Nehawu about the state of the green Civitas building at the corner of Thabo Sehume and Struben Streets.
Spokesperson for the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, Popo Maja, said the move would take place on March 1.
“The relocation will be for a specified period of time to allow the department to embark on a project to identify a site for the construction of a permanent building.
“This interim relocation was necessitated by the occupational health and safety compliance concerns and maintenance challenges experienced in the Civitas building.”
Numerous attempts to find a suitable building had been made, and new office accommodation specifications submitted to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, an open tender process was launched, and the Exxaro Building at 1112 Voortrekker Road was identified, he said.
Treasury approval was granted last year, while an evaluation committee was appointed, and together with public works, was tasked with negotiating the specifications and conditions of the lease.
Thereafter, a relocation team was appointed to deal with logistics, and after successful negotiations, the move can finally take place.
The move has been welcomed by the PSA, whose members camped out on the steps of Civitas in protest against the building they said was a health and safety hazard.
Inspections by the Department of Labour identified safety gaps, and when that did not compel the move, the unions dragged both the health and public works departments to court.
The court case also challenged the spending of more than R1 billion to renovate Civitas between 2010 and 2011, whereas it remained an unsuitable place to work.
The PSA’s Jannie Oosthuizen said they were relieved the employer at last realised Civitas was unsafe and not conducive for productivity of staff.
It was a relief not to have to fight any more, but it was important that any future office meet the required safety standards.
Maja said the department was committed to continuous service to the public as well as uninterrupted financial and other processes even during the relocation process.