KZN patients turned away

2009-06-24 12:07

Durban - Hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal have cancelled operations and were turning away patients as the doctors' strike entered its third day on Wednesday.

“Hospitals such as Durban’s King Edward VIII hospital are taking only critical patients such as those who have been involved in accidents.

"We are also taking some emergency patients to private hospitals,” said KwaZulu-Natal health chief operations officer Nhlanhla Nkosi.

He said non-essential surgical operations on patients had been cancelled in the affected hospitals.

Illegal strike

The doctors embarked on an illegal strike on Monday protesting against delays in implementing the occupation specific dispensation - an adjustment of salary grades for public servants to reward their experience and skill level.

The most affected hospitals were those in urban areas such as Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Newcastle and Empangeni. The Durban hospitals were the hardest hit.

By 10:00 on Wednesday, scores of doctors from various hospitals gathered outside the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in Durban with placards demanding better pay.

Shailendra Sham, one of the striking doctors, said doctors would prolong the strike if government's offer was not good.

The health department was expected to table a new revised offer for doctors at the Public Service Bargaining Council in Pretoria on Wednesday.

SANDF doctors helping out

Nkosi said KwaZulu-Natal had managed to get 18 doctors from the SA Defence Force to help in state hospitals.

“Between Monday and Tuesday, we had eight doctors from the military and they have just told us that we will have ten more. We will station them in all the affected institutions,” said Nkosi.

He said the provincial government appreciated that some doctors had decided not to take part in the strike.

“What makes the situation worse is the fact that our province has been experiencing a chronic shortage of doctors.”

Sibusile Ndlovu, a patient turned way at King Edward VIII hospital, said her daughter Nomusa Ndlovu was supposed to have a check-up after an operation.

“I was not aware that the strike has caused so much chaos. There is no one to help. This is very bad.”

Nkosi said they were committed to ensuring negotiations were concluded quickly.