Lab strike causing delays for essential tests

2017-07-28 15:01
Striking Nehawu members. (COSATU via Twitter)

Striking Nehawu members. (COSATU via Twitter)

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Cape Town - As representatives of striking state laboratory workers and their employers at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) meet on Friday morning for talks, a state clinician has told News24 of how the strike is negatively affecting patients by delaying test results. 

National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) spokesperson Khaya Xaba told News24 that talks between it and the NHLS would start at 10:00 on Friday in Johannesburg. 

The strike over salaries, housing allowances and insourcing started on Wednesday. The NHLS, which provides laboratory services to patients at state hospitals and clinics, has had to rely on private laboratories to perform tests. 

A clinician at a state hospital on the north of the country, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the lab worker strike was delaying urgent tests. 

ALSO READ: Possible end in sight for NHLS strike - Nehawu

"For some of us in medicine, everything is urgent. The issue is that transporting the tests to the private labs is a challenge. Getting results is a challenge," he said. 

"Some of the private labs in smaller places don't have the capacity to deal with large numbers of tests," he said. Clinicians needed to get results very quickly. 

"The further away from a big centre you are, the more difficult it is to get the results."

He said that the NHLS generally provided a "great service", but, "because [the tests] go to a private lab, there is a delay in how often they collect the samples".  

'Non-committal' agreement

The striking workers are demanding a salary adjustment of 7.3%, a housing allowance of R2 000 a month, and a shift allowance of R50, or 45% of their hourly rate – whichever is the greater.

They also want more staff to be insourced. 

Xaba said that the NHLS had previously agreed to the salary increase, but not fully to the other demands 

"They agreed on the 7.3%, but on the other issues they did not. You could say they were non-committal."

He said the strike would continue on Friday, while the talks were underway. 

News24 could not reach NHLS executive director Professor Shabir Madhi for comment on Friday morning before the talks began. 

Madhi had previously said the NHLS had offered the strikers a 7.3% salary increase with effect from April 1, 2017, and the implementation of insourcing from April 2018. 

He said the laboratory service would be unable to insource security, cleaning and maintenance personnel immediately as demanded by workers. 

Read more on:    nehawu  |  johannesburg  |  protests  |  healthcare

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