Mthatha hospitals grind to a halt as taxi shutdown intensifies

Hospitals in Mthatha have been forced to operate with skeleton staff as the taxi strike intensified on Monday.

In the morning, healthcare workers who worked the night shift were unable to return home, while those expected to report for duty failed to arrive at work due to blocked roads.

The department of health in the province confirmed that services have been affected in hospitals in and around Mthatha following the blockade of busy N2 and R61 roads.

“The Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, Mthatha Regional, and St Barnabas Hospital staff, who worked the night shift, could not go home while those who were supposed to report for duty could not get to work because of the blocked roads,” said Mkhululi Ndamase, the spokesperson for the MEC for health.

Ndamase said the staff that is still stuck in the hospitals would be relieved once the roads have been reopened.

Police seize firearms

“This has forced hospitals to operate with skeleton staff. As soon as roads reopen, those who are supposed to be on duty will go to work to relieve those who worked the night shift.

“The blocked roads mean patients in desperate need of a higher level of care cannot get it, as ambulances cannot get to Mthatha.

“In emergency cases, the department will use aeromedical services to transfer patients.”

The strike comes after a fight between cops and taxi drivers last week, during which the police allegedly confiscated the taxi operators’ firearms.

In a bid to restore order, policemen also seized firearms from highly armed security officers who stood guard at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, where several people were admitted after the exchange of fire between the warring parties.

Three taxi operators were killed during the gunfight.

Motorists have been asked to delay or cancel their trips because all exit and entry points to Mthatha have been blocked with trucks.

Defence force to the rescue

Unathi Binqose, the spokesperson for the province’s transport department, said operations in Mthatha have been disrupted.

“Both sides of the R61, as well as the N2, have been blockaded using heavy-duty trucks as well as some burning tyres. This unfortunately affected operations at Mthatha Airport,” said Binqose.

“Those who are travelling to Mthatha are advised to delay their travel times until the situation is back under control.

“Law enforcement is on the ground trying to control the situation, and we are having reinforcement from the SA National Defence Force.”

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