Electrician wants job back

THE Western Cape provincial health department is on shaky legal ground after firing an electrician who complained about blocked toilets in the hospital.

The electrician - who uploaded photos of blocked hospital toilets to his Facebook page - will take hospital bosses to arbitration in a bid to get his job back.

He was fired in May for "gross insubordination" by the management of Groote Schuur, one of Cape Town's largest public hospitals.

But Johan Beaurain told Sowetan he was only a whistle-blower. He said the blocked toilets were a health hazard for all the patients and workers in the hospital because the air-conditioners were sending foul air from the toilets into the hospital wards.

Durban-based labour law firm owner Shanta Reddy said Beaurain "was fired for being a messenger".

"He attempted to act in the interests of the hospital by telling them to sort out the toilets, which were a health problem for the hospital's patients," Reddy said.

Freedom of Expression Institute director Ayesha Kajee warned that the hospital did not have enough grounds to fire Beaurain.

"As a South African citizen he has right to express his views on the state of a public health facility, and the public has a right to this information.

"Patients and their families expect that admission to a public health facility will improve their standard of health, certainly not decrease it," Kajee said.

She said other hospital staff also rightly expect that their health will not be negatively affected by working in a hospital.

Kajee agreed with Beaurain that whistle-blowers should be protected and not "victimised".

"It is of particular concern that whistle-blowers who attempt to expose inefficiency, unacceptable standards of service delivery and corruption are often victimised by dismissal. This keeps many potential whistle-blowers silent, when it would probably be in the public interest for them to speak out," Kajee said.

But Groote Schuur Hospital spokesperson Alaric Jacobs would not comment on whether it was fair for Beaurain to be fired for complaining about a health hazard in a hospital.

"The merits of his dismissal may still follow legal processes and we are not at liberty to engage on the merits of his dismissal," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the blocked toilets had since been fixed.