Strikers bring ambulance to a halt

2010-08-19 12:46

Johannesburg - Striking health workers stopped an ambulance transporting a patient with breathing problems from entering Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg on Thursday.

"We went to (a hospital in) Krugersdorp and we were not allowed in and now I'm here and still, they are not allowing us in. I'm carrying a person who is struggling to breathe," the ambulance driver, who did not want to be named, told reporters.

He said he was scared of the angry protesters.

"I can just drop him (the patient) off here and just leave him, because they are threatening me now."

Pandemonium broke out outside the hospital when the police brought out a water cannon and sprayed the crowds with water.

Protesters had been blocking off the entrance to the hospital and prevented a police car from entering the premises.

Stones, rubbish thrown at water cannon

The workers retaliated by throwing stones and rubbish at the water cannon.

At the same time, the ambulance, with flashing lights, tried to access into the hospital.

As the police opened the gate for the ambulance, protesters pushed forward and forced the gate closed again.

Meanwhile, in Pietermaritzburg the road leading to the Edendale hospital was barricaded with tyres, KwaZulu-Natal police said.

Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Mdunge said police were stationed at all hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal to monitor striking workers.

Minor incident

"There were police in Edendale, RK Khan, King Edward and other government hospitals in the province to assist if there were problems," said Mdunge.

"Edendale hospital was the only hospital that experienced a minor incident. There were no bad experiences in other hospitals."

He said the people who were barricading the road in Pietermaritzburg were quickly dispersed and no arrests were made.

"The people were dispersed by police and the tyres were removed from the road," said Mdunge.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions and the Independent Labour Caucus announced a nationwide strike on Tuesday after their members rejected the government's offer of a 7% salary increase and a R700 monthly housing allowance.

The unions wanted an 8.6% increase and R1 000 housing allowance.