Security at hospitals beefed up to protect staff and patients

Security at hospitals will be beefed up, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Thursday amid the ongoing strike by members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).

Speaking at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg on Thursday morning, Phaahla said the strike has led to loss of lives.

He noted that interim court interdicts will seek to allay fear among patients who are struggling to receive medical care at affected hospitals.

“So, we are hoping for better enforcement of the rule of law, especially with the assistance of the courts,” Phaahla said, noting that the department will bring in military health services personnel to help in affected hospitals.

“The most important support is security. That’s why the steps that have been taken are to make sure that staff are secure over and above the court orders, making sure that they [the court] can be enforced.”

On Tuesday, Nehawu members committed to intensify their industrial action after the Labour Court in Johannesburg reinstated the urgent court interdict granted on Saturday

However, Nehawu chose to ignore the court interdict and proceeded with the strike, which gained momentum on Wednesday, when various hospitals and government offices across the country were affected.

The union is convinced that the Labour Court erred when it granted the interdict, saying it is appealing the court ruling.

Wage talks between Nehawu and government deadlocked in February. The Department of Public Service and Administration is offering a 4.7% wage hike while unions demand between 10% and 12% pay increase.

On Wednesday, the strike turned more violent in some parts of the country.

Emergency medical services in Gauteng have also been threatened and are understood to have been unable to drive in and out of government facilities.

Motalatale Modiba, spokesperson for health department in Gauteng, said the interim interdict is applicable with immediate effect.

“[It] prevents striking workers from doing anything that directly or indirectly obstructs or impeaches access to and from health facilities across Gauteng, or even from damaging any departmental property,” Modiba said.

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