In 2007, 2009 and 2010 strikes took place in the public health sector which resulted in a serious disruption of health care services. Many users of the public health system were not able to access vital services or collect their medication. Earlier this year SECTION27 was approached by a number of concerned organisations, including Rural Doctors Association of South Africa (RuDASA) and the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) to assist in finding a resolution which recognises the right to strike and also protects patients’ rights and prevents loss of life or serious harm being suffered by patients during a strike.
To try and achieve this end SECTION27 is the process of facilitating a meeting between the Minister of Health, health trade unions and organisations representing patients, so that these parties may be brought together to discuss the rights and ethics of strike action in this context and what mechanism should be put in place to ensure that essential services continue to be provided in the health sector during a strike.
The attached background discussion document was drafted to assist this meeting. It includes a summary of the legal opinion SECTION27 obtained on the labour law regarding essential services, including on recent case law; and it also provides comparative research on what other countries have in place in this regard. We are making it public in order to assist further discussion on this issue.