Paramedic strike cripples KZN health sector

2015-05-22 14:54

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Durban - Hundreds of KwaZulu-Natal paramedics stayed away from work on Friday as part of an ongoing spat with health department management over back-pay.

Sources within Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) structures said many bases across Durban had no ambulances working and that the city centre base had only two ambulances available.

The state ambulance service deals with hundreds of emergencies daily. The latest stay-away is believed to be linked to the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) payments, as well as other issues.

One source, who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said bases in KwaMashu, Tongaat and Chatsworth had no staff on duty on Friday.


“There is one member of staff who reported for duty at the Phoenix base, but I doubt they will stay around for very long. In the past couple of weeks the instigators of this industrial action have been warning staff not to take overtime shifts to essentially legally disrupt the service. But now this is an all-out stay-away,” he said.

“These are ambulances that deal with thousands of patients every day and now there is nothing. The private services do not have the capacity to deal with the caseload handled by the EMRS,” the source said.

On Wednesday an ambulance at the Newlands EMRS base was set alight after staff members worked an overtime shift, in defiance of the stay-away, fuelling the assertion that intimidation was rife.

“The staff have been warned that if they come to work today [Friday] they will bleed. Very few people are going to take that chance and I worry for the staff on the two working ambulances in Durban because they [strikers] are baying for blood,” he said.

Eric Dlamini, a former EMRS employee fired for organising industrial action relating to the OSD and other matters, said he was speaking on behalf of aggrieved EMRS paramedics.

“From 2012 we raised various issues with the health department and they have done nothing. The MEC for health and the national minister have both been unresponsive,” he said.

“In Durban you will find only two ambulances running today and this is a big city. We usually have 30 to 40 ambulances running today and in Pietermaritzburg it is the same thing. In the districts of Ilembe, Uthungulu, Umkhanyakude, Majuba and Uthukela there is not a single ambulance working,” he said.

“In Zululand there are three out of 30 ambulances and in Sisonke you will find four out of 30. The Ugu District is an area we have not covered; out of the 11 districts in the province we have brought 10 to their knees,” Dlamini said. 


He said while he had sworn an oath to help those in need, he accused the health department of failing to look after its medics.

“The problem is that we have a department that does not care about the employees and they expect us to take care of the patients. If we are not looked after, how are we to look after them [patients]?”

A fleet of buses which ferries patients between hospitals was also not running.

“Patients will be left unattended in their homes because of this. We never wanted to take it this far, but the department decided to be stubborn. I lost my job so you can use my name as a voice for all the EMRS, I am not afraid,” he said.

Repeated efforts to contact the provincial health department telephonically were unsuccessful. Spokespeople also failed to respond to written questions.

Read more on:    durban  |  strikes  |  health

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