Patients stranded

2014-05-14 00:00

PATIENTS in need of emergency medical services have been left high and dry with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff at uMgungundlovu still on “sick leave” or “family responsibility” leave.

And in the midst of this major health crisis, the KZN Health Department has failed to declare its contingency plans.

The EMS staff, which includes para­medics and control room staff members, took sick leave and family responsibility leave on Monday, leaving the uMgungundlovu district without any emergency services.

Yesterday, when asked if the staff were still on strike, one of the EMS staff members said, “We are not on strike because we cannot go on strike. We are, however, booked off sick and others are booked off on family responsibility.”

She said at least 13 ambulances that operate within the district stretching between the city centre, Howick and nearby areas, were all grounded.

The en-masse leave by the staff is part of a low-intensity war between the workers and management over the failure of the latter to pay the staff thousands of rand in overdue overtime.

An SMS sent by the management on the EMS global notification system said administrative matters relating to the overtime are being attended to by the head office and will be resolved within the next 14 working days.

Staff previously told The Witness that they had not been receiving their overtime, night shift allowance or holiday overtime since last year even though they had worked those shifts.

One official said, “This is putting a strain on our families. We go to work on holidays and at night but we do not get the money, which is making our families question whether we really are going to work.”

Another said he was failing to make his debt payment of around R3 000 each month. “We have responsibilities we need to honour.”

When The Witness contacted the Department of Health for comment yesterday, department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi requested an e-mail enquiry be sent to communications official Desmond Motha, but no answer had been forthcoming by the time of going to print.

Repeated calls to the EMS call centre base on the 10177 number at Grey’s Hospital failed to go through.

On Tuesday, The Witness reported on the frustrations of residents trying to get ambulances to help transport their loved ones to hospital.

• Have you experienced difficulties in reaching EMS? If so, please contact The Witness at thamsanqam@witness.co.za or 033 355 1132

• If you are in urgent need of an ambulance, contact ER24 on 084 124 or Netcare 911 on 082 911.

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