RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA– Health workers in South Africa’s North West Province who have been on strike for almost three-months have returned to work after the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) decided to suspend its strike following intervention by the national government.
The move will afford an opportunity for their issues to be resolved. The strike, which was clouded by reports of alleged intimidation of other workers by striking workers led to a widespread closure of clinics and hospitals and was marked by sporadic incidents of protests by various communities calling for the re-opening of health services and accusing the provincial government of having failed them.
The consequences of the strike were undoubtedly felt by the poorest of the poor who could not afford private healthcare, among them patients of Klerksdorp/Tshepong hospital complex, which could not accept patients from other hospitals across the province who needed specialised medical care. It also could not refer patients to other major hospitals.
The situation is now expected to slowly return to normal although Nehawu says their grievances have not been met. However, the union, South Africa’s biggest public-sector union, said it was giving the national government a chance to resolve them.
The Provincial Secretary of Nehawu, Patrick Makhafane, says at least 60 per cent of their members are now back at work
Patients who could not access health services say they are relieved, but have cautioned the government to resolve workers’ issues before they affect the most vulnerable again.
In some hospitals, admitted patients were left to care for themselves as doctors and other health professionals on duty were reportedly intimidated.
We are very happy that the clinic has been opened because without a clinic there is no life, especially for those who take chronic medication. You can’t be without medication, one patient said.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK