Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, says the attack on the sick and vulnerable is unacceptable, and called for the arrest of perpetrators.
“Every decent human being knows who comes to hospitals. These are sick, very sick, vulnerable members of society. They are not part of these labour issues,” Motsoaledi said on Thursday.
According to some media reports, disruption, violence and disorder was perpetrated by staff members at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, protesting against the non-payment of performance bonuses.
Staff members were demanding payment of bonuses and increases dating back to 2016. The unions will meet hospital management and government officials on Friday in an effort to resolve the crisis.
During a protest, patients were forced out of the hospital, damaging equipment and infrastructure, and blocked entrances to the hospital.
The Minister said out of 50 operations scheduled for Thursday, only 19 were done due to the protest.
The Minister said he understands very well the issue of labour demands that is between the workers and the Gauteng Department of Health, and he has no qualms about that.
Motsoaledi visited the hospital on Thursday with Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa to check the extent of damage in the facility.
SAMA condemns violence
Meanwhile, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) has strongly condemned violent events by staff at the hospital.
SAMA chairperson, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, said that while it acknowledges staff may have legitimate complaints and concerns, "these should be addressed through discussion and negotiation, rather than compromise the provision of proper healthcare to those who are most vulnerable."
“Hospitals should be places of safety, havens for the ill. Whatever the reasons, there can never be any justification of violence, especially when it impacts the safety and proper treatment of patients.
“The destruction of property is also beyond comprehension as this will take money and time to repair, which again places patient treatment and safety in jeopardy. This cannot be the new normal in our country,” Grootboom said.
SAMA also called on the Gauteng Health Department leadership to resolve the matter speedily as frustration with administrative challenges in the province are creating environments conducive to unacceptable actions.
“SAMA in turn will raise these issues directly with its fellow union leadership as well,” Grootboom said.
Nurses provide an essential service
Employees working within the defined essential services, such as nurses and hospital staff, are excluded from using strike action as a means of industrial action.
Nurses pledge their heart and souls before taking up a profession in nursing. Striking nurses and hospital staff are reminded of the pledge they took when they first started.
Nurses’ pledge used in South Africa:
- I solemnly pledge myself to the service of humanity and will endeavour to practise my profession with conscience and with dignity.
- I will maintain, by all the means in my power, the honour and noble tradition of my profession.
- The total health of my patients will be my first consideration.
- I will hold in confidence all personal matters coming to my knowledge.
- I will not permit consideration of religion, nationality, race or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.
- I will maintain the utmost respect for human life.
- I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.