Personnel of the Department of Health in the John Taolo Gaetsewe (JTG) Region is disgruntled with their working conditions.
On Wednesday, 8 August, the members of different unions within the department had a shutdown at the Kagiso Clinic in Mothibistad.
Nurses and support personnel, such as admin clerks and kitchen staff, said they will not go back to work unless these issues are addressed.
Dikeledi Senatle, fulltime shop steward for the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), said the major issues they have are the shortage of staff members in all operations in the district.
“The quality of health care is in jeopardy and because of this, lawsuits also lurk. There is one nurse for 40 patients. At the Tshwaragano Hospital in Batlharos there is one appointed operational manager for the entire hospital that is based in the male ward.
“The CEO is also not appointed, only an acting CEO.
“The nurse’s manager is also acting and there are six wards without managers. This impacts the quality of services. The maternity ward has different units and there is a maximum of three midwives per shift.
“This impacts on the care because not all clinics do deliveries of babies and they must be referred to the hospitals,” Senatle said.
Senatle said the switchboard does not have enough staff as well.
“There are not enough staff to cover a 24-hour shift. There are not enough admin staff to open files for the patients.
“Sometimes there is no medical history of patients’ previous visits due to notes being written on a piece of paper and then it gets lost. This is the same situation at the Kuruman Hospital.
“At the clinics there are no phones to make calls to the hospitals for emergencies and they also have staff shortages. The department also owes outstanding money to the members.”
Senatle said Denosa wants systems in place to render quality services to the communities.
“The community health centres do not operate 24 hours. They close at 19:00 and this puts more pressure on already compromised staff at hospitals. We are pleading with the department to complete appointments of workers.”
According to Senatle, in March and April 2017, there were interviews for vacancies of 2016 and to date, none of these vacancies have been filled. She said the workers do not wish to strike, and this shutdown is the only way they can get the attention of the senior members of the Department of Health.
Banzi Sebotse, regional secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), said these issues have been raised for years.
“We have contacted from the HOD to the MEC, yet none of them addressed the issues. We need general workers as well. The communities want to fight us because there is no staff to help them, but they do not know that we have no members to help.
“The kitchen staff consists of two people instead of four. The same goes for the laundry department. Our people are suffering in the Department of Health.
“In other districts people are being appointed, why not in JTG? We are getting undermined.
“We need to sit around the table and get answers or at least discussions where we can meet each other halfway or make compromises.”
Another burning issue is the shortages of personnel and ambulances at the Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Community members have been complaining for years that ambulances do not reach them in time for emergencies. There are always problems with not enough staff for ambulances to attend accidents or other emergencies.
Lebogang Majaha, spokesperson for the MEC of Health, said Fufe Makatong, the MEC for Health, met with the representatives in the JTG District on Thursday (09/08) to start a process plan towards addressing their plights.
“We remain hopeful that the situation will get back to normal soon.”
All relevant stakeholders are still busy with negotiations.