Protests put severe pressure on North West health department

A bus was torched during Mahikeng protest.
A bus was torched during Mahikeng protest.
Image: Tiro Ramatlhatse

The North West health department says the current protests in Mahikeng are posing a serious threat to the provision of services in the province.

Tebogo Lekgethwane‚ spokesperson for the department‚ said communities in and around Mahikeng could not access health facilities due to the protests.

“It is not safe for the nurses to go to work‚ they fear for their lives. Some of them simply stay at home. As a result we have had overcrowding at the Mahikeng provincial hospital‚” he said.

“There is also a challenge at the medical depot because the trucks that are supposed to bring medicine are unable to deliver it at the health facilities.”

Lekgethwane said the department had now allowed patients to by-pass the local clinics and come straight to the hospital‚ which caused overcrowding.

“We have also engaged the national Department of Health to direct deliveries of medical supplies straight to the medical facilities instead of taking it to the depot because it is difficult to move it from there. We have also given our clinics the go-ahead to engage suppliers of medication directly‚” he said.

He said some of the local clinics were forced to close while others opened at intervals. Violent protests in Mahikeng intensified this week as residents calling for the resignation of Premier Supra Mahumapelo went on the rampage‚ blockading roads and burning buildings in the area.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to visit the area on Friday in order to find a lasting solution to the protests. But problems in the provision of healthcare have been worsened by a go-slow by members of the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) who are complaining about the non-payment of performance bonuses and head of department Thabo Lekalakala‚ who has since been suspended.

“They [health workers] are not working. I would call it a go-slow because they come to the offices and sign the attendance register. After that they sit down‚” said Lekgethwane.

On Thursday‚ the SA Association of Hospital and Institutional Pharmacists said the protests had resulted in serious disruption of medicine distribution in the province.

“If we continue like this in the coming week‚ the situation will be worse. We have to find a solution very soon because this has already escalated to other places outside Mahikeng.”

A hardware and a liquor store were looted in Stateng, Mahikeng, on April 20 2018 during protests calling for North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo to step down. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here:

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