Hospital workers suspend two-week strike

STAFF at the Thabazimbi Hospital in Limpopo have suspended a strike they started two weeks ago.

Cleaners, administration clerks, ground staff and drivers were on a go-slow protesting against bad working conditions.

Sowetan visited the hospital last week after reports that 38 patients had died because of a lack of care and a shortage of staff and doctors.

A handful of nurses were willing to work and Sowetan was told only one doctor was willing to work that day.

"We are on strike," was all cleaners were willing to say.

This reporter crushed two cockroaches in the corridor and witnessed a patient kill another a few minutes later.

The district executive manager, identified only as Ms Mahlo, addressed staff on Wednesday after services had ground to a halt.

Mahlo assured staff that the occupation specific dispensation deal would be implemented to benefit all, but staff still want clinic manager Dingaan Mabena and hospital chief executive Malesela Makinta gone.

Last Tuesday patients were embroiled in a fight with staff and a mob reportedly cornered Makinta to demand services.

On Wednesday patients complained that no one was attending to them. Some could not even get their files since reception was unattended for most of the day.

A big problem at the hospital was that out of 17 posts for doctors, only four were filled. Three doctors are supposed to do day duty from 7.30am to 4pm and one doctor to work night shift.

Sowetan learnt that since September last year four doctors had resigned, allegedly because of maladministration by Makinta and Mabena.

Two of the four doctors had been with the hospital for two years and the others for about three months.

"Let me just get on with it," replied one doctor when asked if he was coping.

"You can imagine the pressure on the remaining doctors," said a nurse.

When the hospital pharmacy closed at 4pm on Wednesday patients who had been waiting since morning left without being attended to and without medication.

Arnold Bezuidenhout, a diabetic who needed insulin, said: "I understand the staff grievances but it should not be at our expense."

Louisa Lekobane said: "Why are they not helping us? It is going to be difficult to come back on another day."

She declined to say what she needed medication for.

Meanwhile, a staff member said the strike had been suspended pending the implementation of OSD.

The source, who represents the workers, said failure to implement the deal would lead to rolling mass action.

"We decided to suspend the strike after management promised to attend to our problems. But should they fail to do so we will embark on a full-blown strike," said the source.