File Picture: Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP

Doctors and a few nurses at Yusuf Dadoo Hospital had to scramble to cook, feed and clean for patients as workers downed tools.

Since Monday, ambulances arriving at the hospital carrying patients had to be diverted to Leratong Hospital as it could not admit anyone.

Some patients who had been admitted at Yusuf Dadoo were also transferred to Leratong as the facility could not cope.

According to Simphiwe Gada, Gauteng chairperson of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the closure of the hospital canteen without notice, the hiring of foreign doctors over local ones, money that was allegedly stolen at the Human Resources office and staff shortages were some of the reason that led to the protest.

Since Monday, members of Denosa, the Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) downed tools at the Hospital.

According to Yusuf Dadoo CEO Dr Patrick Sofohlo, the canteen was closed down on February 1 and the hospital was in the process of getting a new service provider.

"The contract of the old service provider expired. We are busy with the bidding process and the unions are aware of that," Sofohlo said.

Gaga admitted that they were aware that the hospital was busy with the process and that they agree that the process of getting a new one should unfold.

However, members should have been informed beforehand that the canteen was not going to be operational, he said.

"If you work with people, they should not just see things happening. The lack of canteen will have an effect on services because this means workers will now have to go out of the hospital to buy food.

"If a patient has to be resuscitated it's easier to call them for help when they're inside the hospital but now they will be outside," he said.

Gada said as a union, they were also concerned about the preference of foreign doctors over local ones. He said it was a worrisome phenomenon they observed not only at Yusuf Dadoo but all over the country.

"You can't have a health system dependent on foreign doctors. What if they decide to go back (to their counties of origin)? 

"Also, when it comes to patriotism, I don't think they are as patriotic as local doctors. There is also a language barrier and most of our people are not able to understand them," he said.

With regards to staff shortage, Gada believes posts were not filled because the government was trying to cut the public wage bill.

"The posts are not being filled but the workload has not decreased," he said.

According to Sofohlo, they had meetings with the unions but the issues were not resolved hence the protest continues on Tuesday. Police, he said, had to open the hospital gate the protesters had closed, not wanting non-striking workers to get into the hospital and work.

"We had to clean, cook and also feed the patients ourselves. As it is now, we are not receiving patients at all while the workers are outside picketing," he said.

Gada said not all their members were picketing because they were not so reckless as to have all of their members protesting.

"We can't take a reckless decision to shut down a hospital. Nurses know they have a particular responsibility so not all of them have left patents attended. ICU nurses are working," he said.

The Star