Pelonomi Hospital staff back at work after downing tools

2018-06-26 19:16
PHOTO: Getty Images

PHOTO: Getty Images

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The strike at Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein has come to an end after nurses and hospital staff downed tools earlier on Tuesday over staff shortages. 

Staff agreed to return to work after the Free State health department and unions reached an agreement. 

The hospital staff were reportedly calling on the health department to intervene to ensure more workers are hired in the maternity ward.

Provincial health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said unions that were present at the meeting included the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, the Public Servants' Association of South Africa and Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa.

Free State health MEC Montsheng Tsiu and head of department David Motau assured unions that the department had managed to reprioritise its budget to enable 13 maternity nurses to be employed.

Tsiu said the department was committed to resolving matters that workers were concerned about. She, however, urged workers to observe the law when embarking on strikes.

91 vacancies in maternity ward

"No one does as they please in this country. The right to strike is one where everybody is allowed to take part but there are ways set for [you] to strike," Tsiu said.

Mvambi said the department had also received permission from Treasury and the Free State premier to gradually employ about 91 nurses to strengthen the hospital's maternity ward.

"The total number of vacancies in that maternity ward is 91, but what we have agreed on is that we cannot employ 91 people all at once, but we will start with employing 13 nurses while we make necessary interventions into the hospital's shortages," Mvambi said. 

Mvambi said while interventions were ongoing, 20 nurses would be temporarily employed to strengthen services in the maternity ward.

According to the department, the hospital's kitchen staff reportedly cooked food for patients in the morning but only dished it out later in the day in protest as they were demanding that the department insource them. 

Nehawu provincial secretary Mokapi Mokhachane confirmed an agreement was reached by both parties, and signed by the MEC and head of department. 

Mokhachane said the unions and the department had also agreed that overtime incentives would be paid within 30 days from the date of submitting necessary documents.

"In the event that the documented agreements are not implemented, we don't need to strike, we don't need to go through a process of arbitration; we certify [it and it] becomes an arbitration award then we certify it to be a court order," Mokhachane said.

"Adequate security would be provided for the maternity ward including escorting of patients throughout the hospital. The parties have agreed that workers would not be intimidated or charged for having embarked in the strike," he said.

Mokhachane added the department and unions agreed to monitor the implementation of all decisions made at the meeting and would engage on outstanding matters. 

Read more on:    protests  |  health

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