Nurses suspended in Eastern Cape for refusing to care for COVID-19 patients

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The Eastern Cape Health Department says it’s disappointed that 38 nurses had to be suspended because they refused to care for COVID-19 patients. The suspensions happened at Empilweni TB hospital in Port Elizabeth.

The department says decisive action will be taken.

Nurses at the Orsmond TB hospital also downed tools after the hospital was turned into a COVID-19 institution.

Spokesperson for the Health Department Sizwe Kupelo explains: “Our stance is very clear, that we cannot have employees who are on our payroll but are refusing to do their job. Simultaneously we are engaging with their respective unions to discuss issues relating to some of the concerns raised by the department and by unions. But we wish to appeal to everyone that during this time of the pandemic we need to ensure that we pull ourselves so we save lives of those who end up in our facilities.”

Meanwhile, the health workers union Nehawu has condemned the 38 nurses from a rival union who participated in the illegal work stoppage.

The 38 nurses, whos are members of the union Denosa, decided to strike when the department converted the hospital into a COVID-19 treatment centre. The workers say they were not consulted.

Nehawu regional secretary Sweetness Stokwe says the Health Department should have acted faster to bring them to book.

“It’s been eight months now, Denosa nurses have not been performing any duties. At some point, they were transferred to Osmo to nurse people in that hospital. The unfortunate part now is that even with TB hospitals, what we have observed is that, those hospitals as much as they are TB hospitals, you also get patients that test with COVID-19. So in the long run, in Nelson Mandela, almost all the hospitals have COVID-19 cases and it is sad because the second wave tells you that we must be hands-on. Empilweni has the capacity to admit more patients but is unable to do so.”