Paramedic strike cripples KZN health sector

2015-05-22 14:54


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Durban - Hundreds of KwaZulu-Natal paramedics stayed away from work on Friday as part of an ongoing spat with health department management over back-pay.

Sources within Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) structures said many bases across Durban had no ambulances working and that the city centre base had only two ambulances available.

The state ambulance service deals with hundreds of emergencies daily. The latest stay-away is believed to be linked to the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) payments, as well as other issues.

One source, who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said bases in KwaMashu, Tongaat and Chatsworth had no staff on duty on Friday.


“There is one member of staff who reported for duty at the Phoenix base, but I doubt they will stay around for very long. In the past couple of weeks the instigators of this industrial action have been warning staff not to take overtime shifts to essentially legally disrupt the service. But now this is an all-out stay-away,” he said.

“These are ambulances that deal with thousands of patients every day and now there is nothing. The private services do not have the capacity to deal with the caseload handled by the EMRS,” the source said.

On Wednesday an ambulance at the Newlands EMRS base was set alight after staff members worked an overtime shift, in defiance of the stay-away, fuelling the assertion that intimidation was rife.

“The staff have been warned that if they come to work today [Friday] they will bleed. Very few people are going to take that chance and I worry for the staff on the two working ambulances in Durban because they [strikers] are baying for blood,” he said.

Eric Dlamini, a former EMRS employee fired for organising industrial action relating to the OSD and other matters, said he was speaking on behalf of aggrieved EMRS paramedics.

“From 2012 we raised various issues with the health department and they have done nothing. The MEC for health and the national minister have both been unresponsive,” he said.

“In Durban you will find only two ambulances running today and this is a big city. We usually have 30 to 40 ambulances running today and in Pietermaritzburg it is the same thing. In the districts of Ilembe, Uthungulu, Umkhanyakude, Majuba and Uthukela there is not a single ambulance working,” he said.

“In Zululand there are three out of 30 ambulances and in Sisonke you will find four out of 30. The Ugu District is an area we have not covered; out of the 11 districts in the province we have brought 10 to their knees,” Dlamini said. 


He said while he had sworn an oath to help those in need, he accused the health department of failing to look after its medics.

“The problem is that we have a department that does not care about the employees and they expect us to take care of the patients. If we are not looked after, how are we to look after them [patients]?”

A fleet of buses which ferries patients between hospitals was also not running.

“Patients will be left unattended in their homes because of this. We never wanted to take it this far, but the department decided to be stubborn. I lost my job so you can use my name as a voice for all the EMRS, I am not afraid,” he said.

Repeated efforts to contact the provincial health department telephonically were unsuccessful. Spokespeople also failed to respond to written questions.

Read more on:    durban  |  strikes  |  health

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Financial advisors – Do you need one and should you get one?

The good, the bad, and everything else you need to know when considering hiring a financial advisor.


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.