WATCH | Healthcare workers at Bara Hospital tell Gauteng health dept: 'You have continued to fail us'

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  • Staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath are angry about Covid-19 employment contracts not being renewed. 
  • Nurses and doctors say they even pooled their own money to buy food for patients. 
  • The Gauteng health department says it does not have the money to renew the 800 short-term contracts.   

Nurses and doctors at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital say the Gauteng health department continues to fail them, just as it did during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hospital staff have discovered that more than 800 temporary contracts will not be renewed.  

On Thursday, healthcare staff at the specialist hospital in Soweto held a picket outside the gates.

Among the multitude of issues was the loss of more than 819 staff members, who were employed during the pandemic, and food shortages, particularly for patients.

"We will not be silenced. We will not be told to be silent," said Dr Sadna Balton, the head of Speech Therapy and Audiology at the hospital.

"We will continue speaking up for our patients. We will continue speaking up for health workers.

She said: 

This is an indictment of the government and the Gauteng health department. You failed us during Covid-19, with the [personal protective equipment] scandal, and you have continued to fail us daily, and we will not be silent. We deserve better.

News24 recently reported that doctors and nurses even had to pool their own money to buy food, from the vendors outside the hospital, to feed their patients.

On Thursday, the Gauteng health department said there was no food shortage at the hospital, adding that they had been out of bread, but the issue had since been fixed.

"The fact that we have a province, where patients are not being provided something as basic as bread for two weeks, speaks volumes to the incompetence and the uncaring of those responsible for the management of this facility, and that is the management responsible at a provincial level," said Professor Shabir Madhi, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

"The fact that we have bio-hazardous material accumulating at this hospital speaks to the lack of interest on the part of the government to ensure that there is a safe work environment. 

READ | Baragwanath hospital runs out of food, nurses pool money to buy patients corn on cob for lunch

"The government needs to understand that there are consequences to its inability to govern. If they are unable to govern, they need to come up with a plan, not when a new government comes in." 

Addressing the crowd that gathered outside the hospital, Madhi said it was distressing that staff had to fight the same issues as they did in the 1980s.

"Fights that we had in the 1980s about equity of access to care, about patients' rights ... fights that we had in the 1980s are fights that we are revisiting in 2022.

"We need to ask ourselves why. Across this country right now, and I say it without any fear, there is a single province with a functioning health system. Like it or not, that province happens to be the Western Cape.

Madhi added: 

It is a province that provides governance and, when it employs staff, it does not employ staff based on their political affiliations. It employs staff based on competence. It is an indictment on our government that, 28 years later, we need to fight for patients' rights.

The health department said it would not renew the contracts of 800 hospital personnel, who were hired temporarily across the province, because of "budget constraints". 

"The department would have liked to retain all temporary Covid-19-appointed staff. The current provided budget by Treasury to pay for these posts is, unfortunately, inadequate to keep all workers.

"Gauteng Department of Health received a Covid-19 grant budget of R2.2 billion for compensation of employees to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The budget enabled the department to appoint critical staff required since 2020 on contract," the department's spokesperson, Kwara Kekana, said.

ALSO READ | R1.2bn corruption case against four former Gauteng health dept officials postponed

Madhi warned that the impact of the hospital losing the support staff would be great, particularly in light of it managing patients who would normally have gone to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, after that hospital's fire. 

"The additional patients that come here require nurses and doctors to look after them. Those doctors and nurses currently exist... remove them from this, and you will find that the permanent staff are going to find themselves under greater pressure. They will burn out, creating an even greater disaster.

"Poor planning on the part of the government is not an excuse to punish patients and hospitals," he said. 

The Gauteng MEC for Health is expected to visit the hospital on Friday.

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