Premier must listen to striking KZN health workers and fire MEC Dhlomo

Democratic Alliance media statement by Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

 

Premier must listen to striking KZN health workers and fire MEC Dhlomo

 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on KZN Premier Willies Mchunu to heed the rising call of unions in the province to fire provincial Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo without any further delay.

The appeal comes after NEHAWU and DENOSA members marched over poor working conditions which include dire staff shortages, while also calling for the MEC to be axed. Earlier this week, nurses from Osindisweni Hospital also marched over the MEC’s complete lack of leadership within the Department.

The DA has been fighting for MEC Dhlomo to be axed for several years as the province reels from an unprecedented oncology crisis.

During two recent oversight inspections as part of  our #HospitalHealthCheck campaign, the DA witnessed first-hand just how badly nursing staff shortages are affecting patient care with long queues, no care in casualty wards and various complaints of rudeness by nurses. There can be no doubt that many of these annoyances are the result of fatigued and burnt-out staff due to the reduced nurse to patient ratios.

These issues are a direct result of a provincial ANC government that does not care. It is this same government that froze all critical posts including those in healthcare in 2015. Following several legislative processes engaged in by the DA, we were informed that the moratorium on healthcare staff had been lifted. This has turned out to be the biggest lie peddled by the MEC, his Department and the Premier to date as red tape continues to see critical posts unfilled.

In 2015 KZN had some 2 200 nursing vacancies and 21 000 applicants. This confirms that there is no shortage of people seeking such employment. In a more recent response to parliamentary questions by the DA, the Premier revealed that there are now a staggering 5 926 vacancies for critical posts including nurses, doctors and other personnel in the province.

While KZN’s Health portfolio committee has been informed that a staff audit is underway and that criteria will be established for a minimum staff establishment per facility in the province, the process is not yet complete. This will only lead to even less unsatisfactory working conditions and patient care. Also alarming is that not enough funding has been allocated in this year’s budget to cater for increased staff employment, making it even less likely that more nurses or doctors will be employed.

The DA will today write to KZN Health portfolio committee chairperson, Dr Yusuf Bhamjee, requesting that he urgently ensure that the portfolio committee is appraised of the concerns raised by NEHAWU. In the interim, we appeal to striking nursing staff to be conscious of the fact that they are essential staff. While their concerns are absolutely legitimate, their right to protest must be balanced with patient’s rights which come first.

The Premier must listen to the people at the very heart of healthcare in our province and fire MEC Dhlomo. Failure to do so will show that he too does not care.

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