Emergency dept staff return to work

2014-05-20 00:00

THE Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff members returned to work this week following a week-long stand-off with their employer, the Department of Health.

“The workers are fully back at work. They started going back on Sunday and today [yesterday] they are all back”, said Mazwi Ngubane, a union leader from the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) representing the workers.

He, however, warned that their issues had not all been addressed.

“The overtime was not the only issue that the workers were complaining about. There were other issues such as working conditions, using cars that are not in good condition and the shortage of working materials. The management needs to make good on these problems or the stand-off could start up again,” he said.

Last week, the entire EMS department, estimated at around 300, in the uMgungundlovu District took sick leave and family responsibility leave, leaving the district without any ambulance services in protest following the non-payment of overtime pay that they said had not been paid for more than a year.

The impasse was finally broken on Friday during a meeting between the union and management. Management provided a written offer on how they would settle the payments.

Ngubane said according to the agreement, the money owed to the workers will be paid every Thursday until it has all been paid off.

The agreement brought to an end five days of havoc in the district. There had been almost no provincial Health Department paramedics or control room staff working.

Management was believed to be doing some of the work of the EMS staff while some paramedics had been brought in from Durban to help with the inter-hospital transfer of patients.

There were also allegations that police had to pick up some of the calls from people looking for ambulances.

Colonel Jay Naicker said, “We do receive calls to the 10111 emergency numbers from members of the community requiring medical assistance.

“Members at the control room do their utmost to assist the injured by obtaining the relevant information from the caller and thereafter transferring the messages to the EMS or a private ambulance service to attend.”

Attempts to get comment from the department were unsuccessful.

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