eThekwini strike taking its toll on healthcare facilities

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The ongoing municipal workers’ strike in the eThekwini Metro has affected some public healthcare facilities around the city. It’s alleged that doctors and nurses at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital battled without electricity for three days following a failed transformer.

Repairs to the substation are said to have stalled because of the ongoing municipal workers’ strike.

Workers affiliated with SAMWU are demanding that their salaries be adjusted to mirror those of employees in other metros.

The Health Department has confirmed that electricity has been restored at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital since Thursday morning. It’s understood that the facility had been running on generators since Monday.

Several patients were sent home as some units at the hospital were not functioning. The eThekwini Municipality issued a statement, saying clinics at Hambanathi north of Durban and Craigieburn on the south coast have been temporarily closed because of the strike.

Unions say the power failure crippled critical services at the hospital, with some surgeries having to be cancelled. Critical patients were diverted to other hospitals.

“So, the generators only supply the critical areas like the ICU. So, it is for this reason that they must introduce the solar system, so that they can be able to have a backup, not only in this central hospital but all other hospitals that have ageing infrastructure,” says Mlungisi Ndlovu, PSA provincial manager.

“They were also transferred to nearby hospitals. You remember that some of the functions that are done here at Inkosi hospital are done at King Edward hospital because King Edward is also a tertiary hospital which means that there is a high level of specialists that are also situated there,” says Ayanda Zulu, NEHAWU provincial secretary.

The eThekwini Municipality says striking employees entered the Hambanathi and Craigieburn clinics and removed patients and healthcare workers.

Water, refuse, healthcare and electricity supply in areas across the city have been impacted for over a week now.

“We’ve got the police in this country; we’ve got the soldiers in this country that can help and escort especially the water tanks to bring water to the people because how are people going to survive? It’s so terrible you stay in the house with nothing to drink,” says Lelo Zondi, Hambanathi resident.

“We walked from Shewula and came here to Hambanathi. It’s disheartening that we come here, and it’s closed because what we came here to do is important. Our appointments were last week but because of the strike we turned, and we came today hoping it was going to be open, but it’s closed,” says Xolisile Ndlovu, Hambanathi resident.

Thirteen striking employees, who were arrested, appeared at the Durban Magistrate’s Court earlier this week.

The municipality has also served 79 employees with notices of misconduct. They’ve been given 10 days to make submissions on why they should not be dismissed.

Video: eThekwini Municipality – Workers’ strike affects health services