KZN doctors call off strike

2009-07-02 17:10

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal doctors on Thursday called off a strike that saw close to 300 doctors fired and many hospitals crippled.

The doctors will resume work on Friday morning.

Doctors took the decision to suspend the strike after a marathon meeting with Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Sdumo Dlamini and SA Medical Association (Sama) representatives at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in Durban.

Dlamini persuaded the striking doctors to end their protest, saying South Africa could not afford another day without doctors.

"Cosatu is worried that patients are dying. We fully understand your concerns and we believe that they must be sorted out."

If doctors agreed to suspend the strike, Dlamini said he would facilitate the process of reinstating the fired doctors. He would make sure that they were re-instated without any conditions.

Replacement doctors

On Monday, the KwaZulu-Natal health department fired close to 300 doctors after they defied a labour court order instructing them to return to work.

The department further made arrangements to get replacements from other countries.

Dlamini told doctors that three unions - the Democratic Nursing Association (Denosa), the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union (Hospersa) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) were ready to sign government's offer on occupation specific dispensation (OSD). Sama did not want to sign.

Dlamini said he would meet KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize and Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo on Thursday afternoon to make sure the fired doctors were reinstated.

Nurses fired

The decision to suspend the strike was not easily reached. Some doctors wanted the strike to go ahead, arguing they had told themselves that they would not call off the strike until their demands were met.

They succumbed when their leaders told them they trusted that Dlamini would fight on their behalf.

Explaining the danger of embarking on illegal strike, Dlamini reminded doctors of over a 1 000 nurses who were fired by the then minister of health Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in the Eastern Cape in 1995. The nurses had embarked on an illegal strike.

They were not re-instated despite calls from Cosatu for them to be re-instated.

"Dismissal is not a joke. Any government does not want to be destabilised by illegal strikes. They go ahead firing people who take part in illegal strikes even if they (governments) are wrong," said the Cosatu leader.

He urged doctors to make sure they did not have an illegal strike in future.

Medicine school welcomes end of impasse

Meanwhile, the school of medicine welcomed the end to the impasse.

"... The strike has been suspended and will be over when doctors received confirmation of their reinstatement."

After sorting out the issue of fired doctors, the task team to be formed on Thursday evening would start pushing for other doctors' demands to be addressed.