Helen Joseph

Strike cripples hospitals - 5 June 2007

Monica Laganparsad & Maverick Ncana: The Times, 5 June 2007

THOUSANDS of nurses ignored the Department of Health's threat to fire them if they participated in the public servants' strike yesterday. Surgery at hospitals was "severely disrupted", despite military doctors being drafted in. The situation is expected to continue today as public-sector unions and government negotiators resume their struggle to break the deadlock over wage increases. Early yesterday morning, about 200 protesters barricaded the entrance to Addington Hospital, in Durban, preventing patients and doctors from gaining access. A police spokesman, Captain Vincent Mdunge, said the angry protesters threatened patients and doctors. King Edward VIII Hospital, in Durban, was among the worst affected. No nursing staff were on duty and patients were taken to private hospitals and clinics. The Johannesburg General, Helen Joseph and Leratong hospitals were accepting only emergency cases. In Cape Town, both the Groote Schuur and reported that they were running normally.

ER24’s Neil Nobel said that the situation was extremely dire. The intensive care unit at King Edward VIII Hospital was closed. There were padlocks and chains on the front doors. Beds were strewn around in the corridors. Noble said babies in the neonatal intensive care ward at King Edward VIII Hospital had to be transferred to private hospitals. The private healthcare sector has called in extra staff to deal with the huge increase in demand for its services caused by the strike. Leave has been cancelled for all private-sector emergency medical workers. The situation at three Johannesburg hospitals has worsened since the strike started on Friday. A nurse at Helen Joseph Hospital said that though she was at work, she and her colleagues were "on a go-slow". Some wards have been closed. She said that "patients who were able to walk were discharged from the hospital, whether on or not they were fit to be discharged. Leratong Hospital, on the West Rand, was particularly hard hit by the strike. Dirty linen was not washed, refuse bins were full and patients will probably have to go hungry because there are no kitchen staff on duty. At Johannesburg General Hospital, a doctor said that the situation had deteriorated, adding that even the nurses who were there were not doing any work.

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