AT least 36 deaths have been recorded at the Thabazimbi Hospital in Limpopo in the past five weeks - because of an acute shortage of doctors, say nurses at the institution.

This latest revelation emerged after nurses went on strike last week to demand the restructuring of their posts to a higher level.

The nurses told Sowetan they were being overworked and underpaid because of the shortage of doctors.

They said the hospital currently had only three doctors.

There used to be at least 11 doctors at the institution but it is claimed that most of them have left because of the manner in which they were dealt with by the hospital's clinic manager, whose name is known to Sowetan.

He is accused of failing to listen to doctors' complaints since his appointment to the position in 2008.

The nurses said they had repeatedly asked the provincial department of health and social development to implement the OSD and new structure for the posts at the institution - but without success.

They have now resorted to strike action.

Most of the patients had died as a result of not being attended to by doctors, Sowetan was told.

A source at the institution revealed yesterday that the 36 deaths were recorded between February 26 and last week - when the decision to strike was taken.

"We are going to remain stagnant and not move because we have had enough of the bad treatment by the department," said a nurse who declined to be named for fear of victimisation.

She said the doctors had left because of maladministration by the clinic's manager.

The nurses also claimed the clinic's manager had, at one stage, refused to attend to a critically ill patient because, he told them, he was not on call. The patient reportedly later died.

Efforts to get comment from the manager yesterday were unsuccessful.

Departmental spokesperson Selby Makgotho told Sowetan the department was aware of the problems at the institution and was investigating the allegations.