Media Statement: KZN Department of Health update on day six of the Nehawu strike

11 March 2023

Today marks day six of the strike, which has been characterized by disruption of health care services, intimidation of other workers and patients, mainly at the General Justice Gizenga Mpanza Hospital (GJGMH), Harry Gwala Hospital, Greys Hospital, as well as community health centres at KwaMashu and Inanda.

Since yesterday, as well as this morning (Saturday), the situation was beginning to calm down, with signs of returning to normalcy in most affected healthcare facilities, except for those such as KwaMashu CHC, and GJGMH, where a low number of health workers pitched up for work.

Speaking during the Department's multi-media platform KwaZulu-Natal Health Chat yesterday, Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane reiterated that health workers are prohibited to strike. She said workers may embark on protest action only if they will do that which is within the parameters of the law. "Although workers have a right to protest, those who are classified as essential workers are prohibited to go on strike due to the nature and sensitivity of their work and responsibilities. If you look at other professions such as teaching, teachers can afford to go on strike and later draw up a catch-up plan, such as teaching during school holidays, or have night classes and so on. But with healthcare services, once you lose a life there is no catch-up plan. So, the health sector is different. That is why you even see during wars, emergency personnel and their cars are protected because they are there to save lives," MEC Simelane said.

MEC Simelane reiterated her call to striking workers not to blockade facility gates and threaten those workers who want to work. "Striking workers must not temper with other workers' rights not to strike. Not all workers belong to their union, and those workers who are willing to work must not be intimidated and be blocked."

The MEC also encouraged patients to register for the collection of their chronic medicines in their nearby community facilities such as halls, traditional courts, churches, libraries, Thusong Centres under the programme dubbed "Ikhemisi Eduze Nawe" or CCMDD during and post-strike action, in order to avoid defaulting on their medicine during this period.

Explaining the "No Work, No Pay" policy, the Department's provincial Human Resources Chief Director Ms Nozipho Mthembu said according to a circular issued by the Department of Public DPSA, the strike was illegal, and that all workers who embarked on it would not be paid.

"Health workers are not allowed to strike and the No Work, No Pay policy will be applied with immediate effect. Those who were willing to come to work but were blocked by | protesters ought to have communicated with their immediate supervisors, so as to be exonerated from the No Work No Pay process."

Speaking on the same programme, KZN Health Head of Department Dr Sandile Tshabalala reiterated a call for grieving families to bear with the Department in cases where postmortems are delayed. "We are faced with an extraordinary situation, and are trying by all means to expedite the completion of postmortems. However, due to current circumstances, there may be instances where we will move bodies from one facility to others nearby. We are appealing to families who've lost their loved ones to understand that, that would be part of our way of assisting them to get mortal human remains of their loved ones as soon as possible," Dr Tshabalala said.

Issued on behalf of the administrative head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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This page last edited on 11 July, 2023

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