National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in the Northern Cape have slammed the provincial Health Department for its alleged failure to upgrade old and unsafe health facilities.

Workers affiliated to the two unions are on a week-long protest to demand better working conditions, the removal of asbestos clinics and the upgrading of worn-out infrastructure.

The unions say the current infrastructure is putting the lives of their members and patients at risk.

“The department has not complied with the health and safety issues that we have been crying out to the department, the asbestos that is there is having a long term effect on patients and workers,”  says one protester.

“According to the department of labour, they have issued a notice that the building is not conducive to render such services there. That building is not only exposing our members, but the patients and the society as well as a health hazard,” adds another protester.

Meanwhile, the department has called on the unions and workers to exercise patience, saying it has plans to upgrade old infrastructure.

“The MEC has outlined plans that are there, some of them will be more or less trying to revamp some of our own facilities and make them conducive. That is why we want to call the organised labour to exercise some patience,” says the department’s spokesperson, Lebohang Majaha.