Addington Hospital workers down tools over broken lifts

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Healthcare workers at the Addington Hospital in Durban have downed tools. They demand that the management fix lifts that have been broken for two months. The 15-story facility has been battling with this problem since 2013. The hospital has 10 lifts and only one is in working condition.

Scores of patients, who arrived at Addington Hospital for medical treatment, had to return home without any assistance.

Emergency room staff, doctors, nurses and cleaning staff sat outside the hospital on Durban’s beachfront, while the facility operated with skeleton staff.

Zamile Msomi, who has a 10-year old child that walks with the aid of crutches, says, “The lifts at Addington have been problematic for too long. I was forced to carry my disabled 10-year-old to the sixth floor and come back and visit other departments within the hospital with a child on my back.”

Denosa Deputy Secretary in the eThekwini region, Andile Mbeje, says employees and patients are forced to use the only one lift that is dedicated to COVID-19 patients and the removal of medical waste.

“Currently, the staff and the patients are using one lift which is for COVID-19 and medical waste and everything. You are expecting the staff to use the lift that is for COVID-19 and the medical waste and dirty linen and its only one lift. The problem that we are facing currently, there are staff that have disabilities, they cannot go up and down from the 13th floor.”

KwaZulu-Natal PSA manager Mlungisi Ndlovu says employees are forced to carry patients on their backs up and down stairs.

“There’s a problem with lifts here which has not been working for more than three years. For the past four months, workers are expected to move patients from the ground floor to the 15th floor. Some of our workers are living with physical challenges. The department is aware of this particular issue. Workers are saying they are prepared to go to work. Fix the lift. We are at work as we speak. Fix the lift so that they can provide that particular service.”

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu previously told the legislature that the 53-year-old hospital’s lifts are often out of order because of salt air from the ocean.

“The salt air that comes from the ocean affects our lifts continuously and the rust that is always there is what has been affecting our lifts. As a result, we are looking at options of moving the hospital away from where it currently is and building a structure that will actually be manageable and be friendly to patients.”

Nehawu Regional Secretary in eThekwini, Prince Mthalane says the location of the hospital is not an excuse for faulty lifts.

“If you look around the same area, there are hotels and other establishments that have been functioning properly for more than 20 years. So, we don’t understand this excuse of saying because Addington is located around the ocean there’s rust and all of this. Even if such exists then why are there no measures in place for them to be able to address that because that means now all these buildings must be demolished because there will never be functional lifts? It’s a nonsensical excuse. We cannot accept that as Nehawu.”

The unions say their members will not go back to work until their working conditions improve. The Health Department was not available for comment.