Axe hangs over striking nurses

Khanyisile Nkosi and Tebogo Monama

Khanyisile Nkosi and Tebogo Monama

Health workers who took part in Friday's public sector strike might face disciplinary action, the Ministry of Public Service and Administration said yesterday.

Spokesman Lewis Rabkin told Sowetan nurses who took part in the strike were in breach of the Labour Relations Act and a court interdict.

On Thursday, the labour court granted an interdict prohibiting Cosatu, Nehawu and Denosa from engaging essential services workers in the strike.

Nurses and police officers are regarded as essential services workers. Only those who were off duty were allowed to take part in the strike.

Rabkin said provincial health departments would have to deal with the nurses who were absent from work.

On Friday, patients in major hospitals were left stranded when hundreds of health workers took to the streets in support of the public sector strike.

At Leratong Hospital in Krugersdorp, West Rand, a small crowd of workers picketed and sang outside the hospital's premises.

With only a few nurses and administrative staff available, queues in the lobby were long and moved at a snail's pace. At Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital, out-patients waited in a long queue as only one nurse tried to assist in the casualty ward.

An official on duty said there was nothing they could do to speed up the process.

In Johannesburg Hospital, employees picketed outside the hospital's premises before entering.

The hospital's chief executive officer, Saggie Pillay tried in vain to remove them from the lobby. Patients were helped at a slow rate.

Simon Zwane, spokesman for the Gauteng premier, said hospitals used nurses from the private agencies to take care of patients in the wards. Zwane said doctors did not take part in the strike.

Rabkin said public hospitals would use nurses from the military and the private agencies "as long as necessary".