Cape Town – The ongoing strike by the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has reportedly led to loss of life.
Speaking at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg late on Wednesday, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla claimed there were reports of a number of strike-related deaths.
“… There are reports already of South Africans who have died, whose deaths can be attributed directly to the strike and we will be following up on this. But there are already indications just here in Gauteng of specific hospitals where patients have died,” Phaahla said.
Union members embarked on the strike despite a ruling by the Labour Court which interdicted the action. They are demanding a salary increase of 10–12% while the government is offering offered 4.7%.
Phaahla called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to protect patients and health institutions, Sowetan Live reported.
National department of health spokesperson Foster Mohale said Phaahla contacted Cele to ask for the deployment and strengthening of the presence of police at affected areas, the report said.
“So, we are hoping for better enforcement of the rule of law especially with the assistance of the courts,” Eye Witness News quoted Phaahla as saying.
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The minister said military health services personnel would assist at facilities where needed.
“The most important support is security. That’s why the steps that have been taken are to make sure that staff are secure over and above the court orders, making sure that they [the court] can be enforced,” Phaahla said.
The public service strike action intensified on Wednesday, with protesters blocking access to hospitals, including Charlotte Maxeke.
Phaahla had to cut short his parliament business in Cape Town to fly to Johannesburg to deal with the matter.
JUST IN: Health Minister Joe Phaahla cuts short his parliament business in Cape Town to fly to Joburg to deal with impact of #NehawuStrike. Protesters blocked access to hospitals including Charlotte Maxeke. pic.twitter.com/lfU2ARLOhl
— Cliff the Reporter (@CliffShiko) March 8, 2023
Earlier reports said that an ambulance transporting a critically injured child was attacked by striking nurses at a KwaZulu-Natal hospital.
According to News24, paramedics had been transporting the child on advanced life support to the hospital when protesters stopped the ambulance.
Protesters reportedly attempted to remove the child from the ambulance and assaulted one of the paramedics, the report said. The child was eventually admitted to hospital and treated.
Meanwhile, Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein reported several disruptions, intimidation, damage to property and threats of violence, according to Daily Maverick.
The report said doctors were concerned about patients as wards remained without staff.
A health worker said an investigation will be done after four patients were found dead, the report said.
“Our nursing services manager was up until 1.30am. She was actually laying out four corpses.
“We will investigate if the deaths are linked to the strike action… they were simply found dead in their beds and suffice to say that yesterday (Monday) no patient received any medication, or IV fluids or anything,” the report quoted a health worker as saying.
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Compiled by Betha Madhomu