News24

Army called in to help hospitals

2010-08-19 15:40

Johannesburg - Military doctors, nurses and soldiers have been scrambled to hospitals at the request of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi as the public service strike intensified on Thursday.

"The (SA National Defence Force) has been instructed to render support to any government department that may require assistance during the public service strike," said defence ministry spokesperson Ndivhuwo Wa Ha Mabaya.

SANDF members had already moved into Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal and were on standby in Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State, North West and the Northern Cape.

In Gauteng they would provide medical help at the Natalspruit and Chris Hani Baragwanath hospitals and in KwaZulu-Natal at the King Edward and the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial hospitals.

The SANDF had also deployed soldiers from the army to help to protect each of these hospitals.

Wa Ha Mabaya explained that the medical staff were drawn from state military hospitals as well as doctors and specialists who usually worked at private hospitals but who were on their list of reservists willing to help.

Earlier, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said: "The SANDF is ready and will help to ensure that all medical emergencies have been attended to and no life is compromised."

Rubber bullets fired

Police fired rubber bullets at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Parktown, Johannesburg and sprayed water at protesters at Helen Joseph Hospital in Hurst Hill, Johannesburg, when patients and visitors were blocked at the entrance.

In KwaZulu-Natal a group calling themselves "Bafana Bafana" were moving between hospitals and mortuaries to shut them down.

"We have shut down St Aidan's, RK Khan, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Addington and King Edward hospitals," said "Bafana Bafana" spokesperson Sivuyile Ntshoko, who is also the chairperson of the King Edward branch of the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union, an affiliate of the Congress of SA Trade Unions.

Meanwhile, the government announced that it had signed its final 7% wage increase and R700 housing allowance offer.

Unions have 21 days to accept or it will be implemented unilaterally.

Many unions have rejected the offer, saying they want 8.6% and R1 000 for housing.

The government has said it does not have the money for this.

The ANC has called for a speedy resolution to the dispute and an end to intimidation.