Staff members at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg rendered much of the hospital ungovernable on Thursday following unsuccessful negotiations with management over performance bonuses and annual increases.
Workers at the hospital, including nurses, clerks, porters, cleaners and general assistants, started protesting early on Thursday morning, blocking entrance roads, strewing rubbish inside the institution and disrupting operations.
One worker at the hospital said he had been working there for five years but had not received his performance-related bonus for a number of years.
"They don't want to pay the [performance bonuses]. We stretch ourselves every day and work overtime, but we are not being rewarded for it," he said.
"We've been negotiating and negotiating for weeks, but they don't want to meet our demands.
"We just want to send a message. Physically, no patients will be affected, but we want to send a message to management," the man said.
Union, management to meet on Friday
He said staff would clean the mess made in the hospital and "even scrub the walls" when their demands were met.
Lulamile Sibanda, the provincial chairperson for the National Health Education and Allied Workers' Union, said union leaders would be meeting with hospital management on Friday morning to resolve the dispute.
"Workers are on a picket. They are demanding that the management, or the employer, pays their outstanding PMDS (performance management and development system) bonus," he said.
"There are a number of wards which are currently unattended. The union leadership has tried to engage the employer, calling for an essential services agreement but management didn't come to the table. Therefore, workers decided to go out and exercise their right."
Lesemang Matuka, spokesperson for the Gauteng department of health, said the department would comment after meeting with the striking workers on Thursday afternoon.
"The MEC for health Dr Gwen Ramokgopa and acting head of department Professor Mkhululi Lukhele will this afternoon... visit Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital to assess the situation and brief the media about the department's position after reports that the facility has been trashed and shut down," he said.
Jack Bloom, DA spokesperson on health in the Gauteng, called for an urgent resolution to the strike at the hospital.
"I visited the hospital and found rubbish strewn all over and the remains of burnt-out fires. Non-emergency surgery has been cancelled and most patients have left the hospital," he said.
"I was told that protesters threatened staff and patients and in one instance, pulled doctors out of surgery while a patient was on the operating table."
Bloom said he "deplored" the violence at the hospital as it was traumatic for patients and staff.
"The Gauteng health department should have resolved worker grievances more speedily. Protest action has included other hospitals including Leratong Hospital on the West Rand and Bertha Gxowa hospital in Germiston," he said.
"Violence in hospitals should never be condoned no matter the grievance, and perpetrators must be brought to book."