Swazi nurses join strike

2012-07-19 19:46

Mbabane - Public hospitals in Swaziland are turning away patients as nurses have joined a nearly month-long public-service strike in Africa's last absolute monarchy, a hospital official said on Thursday.

State hospitals suspended admissions from Wednesday for all but the most serious cases, as nurses walked off the job, said Mthembeni Maseko, a senior medical officer at the country's main hospital in the capital Mbabane.

"Admission into the hospital's wards has been affected by the nurses' strike. Only patients in critical conditions were admitted to the hospital as a result," she said.

All the country's main public hospitals have been affected, Maseko said.

Prison nurses and nursing students have been called in to fill the gap.

"It's just a skeleton [staff] that could be crippled if the nurses continue with their action," said Maseko.

The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union will lobby non-members to join the strike, its secretary general Nathi Kunene said.

Private hospitals have been less affected.

Teachers have been striking for a 4.5% raise for more than three weeks, with students joining this week. Taxi drivers also staged a strike this week.

The strike has forced the country's only university to close down.

Police have used rubber bullets, a water cannon and batons to break up marches during the strike, in a country that tolerates little public dissent.

Workers blame the country's problems on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati III, rated by Forbes magazine as among the world's richest royals, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.