Disgraceful Nehawu shutdown is endangering lives

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

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke, MP

The DA will do oversight at Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein tomorrow. Patients and staff have been left to fend for themselves after individuals affiliated with the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) have effectively shut down the hospital, as well as others across the country.

The Nehawu strike is impacting health care at hospitals and clinics, putting the lives of patients and personnel at risk.

Reports of the conditions at Pelonomi over past days read like a horror story, with a handful of nurses trying to maintain critical patient care while going incognito in civilian clothes for fear of victimisation, dead bodies lining the corridors, patients and new-borns left to starve, and patients either being left untreated or having to obtain and administer their own pain medication.

A young doctor told the Daily Maverick about his team’s harrowing experience of attempting to continue life-saving surgery while protestors tried to gain access to the theatre and force them out.

It seems unimaginable that the hospital, which the DA and other organisations reported to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) for investigation last year, could sink even lower.

What makes this situation especially frustrating is that Nehawu seems to have little regard for the fact that the strike is endangering the lives of patients and staff nationwide.

No hospital can provide the quality medical care when their essential workers down tools, but patients forced to receive health care at a decrepit hospital like Pelonomi are all the more vulnerable when extra strain are placed on what little systems remain.

The fact that essential workers are being threatened with violence and blocked from performing their duties, despite a court order prohibiting the “barricading of entrances or buildings, molesting, assaulting, threatening of intimidating any members of staff, employees, in or out patients, contractors, visitors…” amongst others and often in full view of the police is shocking.

The DA calls on Nehawu to remain rational and calm. A wage dispute should never be a catalyst for death and destruction.

The DA will also do oversights at the National District Hospital and Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein tomorrow.