Healthcare worker unions in the Eastern Cape are calling on the Department of Health to prioritise the safety of nurses and staff at its facilities. The call comes after nurses at the Uitenhage Provincial hospital were allegedly threatened and attacked by three unknown men on Sunday.
The assailants reportedly brought a friend who had been shot to the hospital and demanded that the nurses fetch him from their car. Staff at the facility are said to be traumatised.
A nurse in the casualty department at the Uitenhage Provincial Hospital was allegedly assaulted during the incident. The assault was seemingly triggered when the nurses told the men to bring the patient to the trauma unit as there were only women on duty.
One of the men allegedly punched the nurse in the face and then kicked her. The affected nurses are receiving counselling while some are opting not to work due to saying they are traumatised.
Health MEC spokesperson Mkhululi Ndamase says the department will improve security.
“We condemn this thuggery with the contempt that it deserves when our staff who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty are too traumatised to work. It will be the communities they serve that are affected the most. So we ask those in the community to work closely with the police so that those that victimise health workers are arrested.”
The health workers’ union, Denosa, says the lives of personnel at government health facilities continue to be neglected.
Denosa regional chairperson, Vuyo Nodlawu says, “Well, we have raised this on a number of occasions that the safety of staff is neglected because if you remember the MEC was here with the entire team of the region and safety was a fundamental issue that we discussed in that meeting. So our workers have been raising this and it has been neglected and now due to that look at the incident that happened here.”
This is the fourth incident that has taken place at various health facilities in the metro in the past month. Last week nurses were held at gunpoint by men demanding medication that was not available at a clinic.
Nehawu deputy provincial secretary, Sweetness Stokwe, says the safety aspects at health facilities are poor.
“For a very long time, we have been complaining to the department of health about the working conditions of our staff, especially the poor safety environment at these health facilities. I mean at the boom gate the security there doesn’t even have guns. If they are attacked what happens? Also, there were three female nurses working a night shift, why was there not even a male? And the fact that there were three, shows that the hospital is understaffed which is something we have been talking about for a long time with the department of health.”
The trauma unit at the Uitenhage Provincial Hospital is now temporarily closed and patients are being referred to the Letitia Bam Hospital. – Reported by Lwando Nomoyi