Patients suffer as health workers strike

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The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says it is unfortunate that patients are bearing the brunt of some health workers’ decision to embark on a nationwide strike.

Workers affiliated to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) started their strike on Tuesday, demanding a ten percent salary increase, a R2 500 housing allowance and improved medical aid benefits.

SAMA vice chairperson Mvuyisi Mzukwa says it is incomprehensible for essential workers to resort to strike action.

Mzukwa says, “We are essential services, meaning that we are prohibited from having a strike. Every doctor knows that. They know that they are dealing with the most vulnerable in society. The community members are being blocked from accessing healthcare facilities. Secondly, those that are already admitted cannot get their medication. Those that are in the ICU or admitted in the wards, cannot at all have access to life-saving medicines.”

VIDEO | Nehawu strike continues to disrupt healthcare services:

Authorities yet to determine impact of Nehawu strike

Health authorities say they can’t confirm whether reported deaths at hospitals are linked to the ongoing public service strike action.

There have been numerous reports of intimidation of non-striking staff and patients being prevented from accessing some facilities.

Health Department’s Deputy Director-General Percy Mahlathi says, “We actually have a serious situation and no one should underplay it. Yesterday was quite intense, there are pockets today that have been intense, it’s too early to say that we can ascribe certain deaths directly to the strike but clearly there’s been a lot of concern from many of the clinicians to make sure that they actually save, especially the critically ill patients. I think by some time later this week or early next week, we’ll be able to respond appropriately to that question.”