Staff down tools at Uitenhage clinic

Unions unhappy over stalled refurbishment of the hospital after the health department ran out of money

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Photo of a woman and a man
Lindiwe Sigwanda and her husband, Fumanekile Mlahleli, were told that there were no ambulances to ferry them to Rosedale Clinic, 10km away, for x-rays after staff stopped work at Laetitia Bam Day Hospital. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane.

Since Monday, over 100 staff at the 24-hour Laetitia Bam Day Hospital in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, have downed tools.

Last month, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) threatened to stop work, saying that conditions at the hospital were intolerable.

The trouble started when the Eastern Cape Health Department said it had run out of money and could not pay its contractors to complete the R3.9-million renovation of the hospital. Patients have had to be attended to in wooden cubicles in unfinished wards. The refurbishment started in November 2019 and was meant to be completed three months later.

The department said renovations would restart in April when it is the new financial year.

Nurses, clerks, cleaners, receptionists, and general workers have all stopped worked. The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) and NEHAWU are leading the protest.

NEHAWU shop steward Lindile Cakwebe said a lengthy meeting was held at the hospital premises on Monday afternoon between management, the clinic committee, the contractors, and shop stewards.

“Our position remains the same: we will work when the environment is conducive,” said Cakwebe.

Health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that health department officials were present at the lengthy Monday meeting. “Workers are at liberty to raise their concerns but sending patients back home and disrupting services is uncalled for. We appeal to them to go back to work in the interest of the community.”

The main contractor for the refurbishment, Ikhono Projects, and the four sub-contractors did not wish to comment. They confirmed that they would resume work as they have signed an agreement that about R700,000 will be paid on Wednesday.

General Secretary of the Sub District B Health Forum Thembisile Nogampula said the hospital saw about 900 patients a day. They would need to go to other clinics now.

“We will communicate with residents through loud hailers when the situation is normal again,” said Nogampula.

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TOPICS:  Health

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