Attacks on health staff and patients condemned – NEHAWU

Dept should zoom in on issues and begin to critically evaluate the system

NEHAWU condemns attacks on health staff and patients in various hospitals  

12 June 2019

The National Education, Health Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) condemns the recent incidents on the death of a 23yr old pregnant woman at the Stanger hospital in KZN and the recent incidents at the Pelonomi, Witbank and Mamelodi hospitals.

The escalating incidents of mortalities, attacks on health personnel, ill treatment of patients and maternal deaths occurring within the health facilities is unwarranted and indicative of the health system failures that we have always campaigned against as NEHAWU. We would like to convey our sympathies to the affected families and the hospital staff of Stanger hospital midwives and doctors in particular. 

The national union has always raised the issues failures within the department of health and highlighted to the department of health, the impact of such failures through our service delivery campaigns to the extent of calling for the removal of some Health MECs. Health has a system that is obviously not ready to respond to the health crisis and or emergencies. It is our wish that the department will adopt a transformative approach by zooming in to the issues at hand and begin to critically evaluate its system on a continuous basis. We are certain that as long as the austerity measures in the country’s public sector persist and continue to target the health department, a record of similar incidents will escalate to the detriment of the system that is already compromised.

The Department of Health has failed to respond to the demands by the unions to fill in vacant funded posts, prescribe staffing norms for all components, avail training and development opportunities for clinicians and implement training and development programmes that will respond to the skills gap in a quest to effect adequate human resources for health.  We have demanded that the department absorb the community service professionals and translate the enrolled nurses to professional nurse’s posts so as to afford them the opportunity to undergo midwifery training courses.  The non-translation of enrolled nurses in the provinces has impacted on the decreased production of midwives and rendered a constant situation of staff shortages and skills shortages.

Recently, we wrote to the department requesting them to collaborate with the Nursing colleges that provide training in midwifery to consider Enrolled nurses that are awaiting the translation to professional nurse’s posts for midwifery training. It has taken the department more than a month just to consider and effect this request.

We have called for the Nursing managers to be capacitated with the necessary skills and knowledge to evaluate health care programmes develop plans to address staff shortages and skills gap and to zoom in to the resources for health and be able to make recommendations that are responsive. Often it is the unions that must campaign for the improvement of the systems in the presence of a full scale of managers at all levels of health care.

We support the responses and initiatives by the MECs in the department of health to conduct investigations and hope that such investigations will not target the employees but rather unveil and confirm the failures in the system that require urgent attention and prioritization.

We truly believe that no clinicians will brave waking up in the morning to go to work intending to kill or be negligent during the course of their work. Facilities must be adequately resourced to respond to the health care needs and workers must be equally supported and mentored to provide quality health care services to clients in need and these should not be compromised at any given circumstances. It must be noted that employees are as equally affected when there are adverse events or deaths occurring in their midst. More often investigations are directed to employees instead of the system and employees are made a scapegoat and face double if not triple jeopardy, seeing that health personnel are become victims of very communities they serve.

We hope that the new MECs will adopt a different approach that is neither defensive nor finger pointing but rather attempt to develop systems that are both responsive and transformative in nature. The concerns raised by various labour unions in various media platforms is to raise the voice against system failures and we hope that the communities will join the health workers in their struggle to defend the health care system and to put pressure on those entrusted with power over the health care system to respond urgently to address such failures within our critical system.

The systems must ensure that all funded vacant posts are filled ambulances are adequate to respond within an expected time, nurses and doctors are skilled and trained to address skills shortages, a human resources for health plan is developed and implemented to accommodate all categories of health personnel.

Issued by Khaya Xaba, National Spokesperson, NEHAWU, 12 June 2019