DA oversight to Pelonomi Hospital reveals devastation by Nehawu strike

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
09 Mar 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP.  See pictures here, here and here.

The DA’s oversight to Pelonomi Hospital, National District Hospital and Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein has revealed the extensive devastation caused by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) strike, which is echoed in public health facilities all across the country.

The DA will write to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, to intervene as a matter of urgency. It is unacceptable that hospital workers and patients’ lives are being risked over a wage dispute. It is further unacceptable that Nehawu Western Cape provincial secretary, Baxolise Mali, reportedly said that it is not the union’s “responsibility to keep people’s lives”.

This deliberate endangerment of lives has already resulted in deaths, according to the Health Minister.

And if today’s oversights are any indication, more deaths are to follow.

At Pelonomi Hospital, Nehawu strikers threatened to break our cell phones as we entered the premises to perform oversight, in full view of the large police presence that did not lift a finger to prevent this. The strikers also did not allow any patients to access health care at the facility.

The conditions at the hospital are shocking. Nurses are forced to don civilian clothes to escape victimisation while working in the paediatric and other wards. Doctors and auxiliary staff have taken over some nursing duties, and all but the most vulnerable and ill patients have been discharged, with much of the overflow going National Hospital.

The hospital is in a filthy condition, with medical waste lining the corridors.

Only the most urgent and crucial operations can be performed, and there is currently no linen operation at the hospital.

The DA was told that there is still food available at the hospital but challenging to get it to the patients.

While the situation is slightly better at National Hospital, Universitas Hospital is experiencing its fair share of problems due to the strike.

Nehawu has barred access to the hospital, and the DA has learned that all but the most critical patients had to be discharged, among them a baby that had to return home without receiving a gall bladder operation which could endanger its life.

That the police are idly standing by while lives are threatened and endangered is shocking.

And while the situation on the ground is dire, it is disgusting that the ANC government has allowed it to escalate so drastically. An agreement on the wage dispute should have been reached long before ambulances were attacked, patients were booted from hospitals and health workers threatened.

Had the Department of Health not allowed hospitals and clinics to become human rights violations and forced doctors and nurses to treat patients in squalor, Nehawu might have had far less support for this nationwide strike.

Both the ANC government and Nehawu is responsible for every life lost and endangered for the duration of the strike.