4 May 2018, JOHANNESBURG – SECTION27 is alarmed by the growing crisis caused by the disruption of all levels of healthcare services in the North West province. We are receiving desperate phone calls from anxious and alarmed hospital doctors reporting on the consequences of the disruption of services caused by the protests and strikes led by NEHAWU and other trade union organisations.
The violence and disruption of healthcare services is leading to immediate loss of life as patients are denied entry to health facilities and doctors and others are prevented from providing care. Some of the reports we have received include protestors invading theatres, threats to the lives of doctors, doctors being forcefully removed from hospital wards and entrances to hospitals being blocked off, meaning no supplies or drugs can be delivered. We consider such forms of protest to be grossly irresponsible and morally reprehensible.
The disruption will also have long-term consequences as patients with HIV, TB and other chronic diseases are unable to collect their chronic medication. Many patients will simply be lost to the system forever because record-keeping systems in the province are severely dysfunctional. This too will eventually cause loss of life.
SECTION27 fully supports responsibly conducted protest action against North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo and his corrupt Zupta clique. Spotlight, a SECTION27-supported publication, recently published a series of #Health4Sale investigative reports, some of which revealed serious corruption in this province, including the looting of money meant for HIV services. You can read some of them here:
The North West health department has effectively outsourced the bulk of its emergency medical service to a private ambulance company who is submitting hugely inflated invoices every month with very little appetite by officials to stop the looting. Spotlight joins the dots in this two-part investigative feature Health4Sale.
We also support the right to protest and have been involved in extensive litigation to affirm this right. However, we cannot under any circumstances support protests which deny vulnerable and poor people access to healthcare and life-saving services. This causes great pain, suffering and loss of life for the most vulnerable. It also alienates patients from health workers when what we need is a united front for patient and workers’ rights.We stand in solidarity with most of the demands of healthcare workers who are NEHAWU members for decent and safe working conditions and living wages. The dignity of healthcare workers is vital to an effective public health system. We also support and have campaigned for the call for the integration of Community Healthcare Workers into the health system on a decent wage and for recognition of the vital role they play in providing healthcare services.
We are forced to condemn irresponsible protests that violate the rights of vulnerable people.
We plead with our comrades in NEHAWU and all trade unions to cease disrupting emergency and essential health services. We call on all unions and civil society organisations, now and in future, to make a public commitment to never again act in a way that harms other poor people and always to protest in a way that protects the rights and dignity of others.
We call on national trade union leaders, from COSATU, SAFTU, FEDUSA and NACTU as well as religious leaders to step in to help resolve this ongoing crisis and assist in urgently restoring healthcare services in the province.
Lives are being lost. This is an emergency.
According to doctors who have been in contact with us, the following hospitals and clinics are currently either closed or facing severe disruptions and intimidation:
Grace Mokhoho – closed
Empilisweni – closed
Jouberton – closed
Kanana – closed
Park Street – closed
Tsholofelo – closed
Majara Sephapho – closed
Potchefstroom hospital – disruption
Klerksdorp Tshepong Hospital – disruption
Zeerust – disruption
Lerahutse – disruption
Mahikeng – disruption
Taung Madibang – disruption
Tswelelang – disruption
Matlosana – closed
For more information, please contact:
Mark Heywood (Executive Director): 0836348806
Vuyokazi Gonyela (Advocacy Officer): 0736361373
SECTION27 office – 011-3564100