The public sector strike in South Africa has entered its 13th day.
President Jacob Zuma is particularly concerned about its impact on health and education, Reuters reports today.
Zuma has told government ministers to negotiate without delay to end the strike by some 1.3 million workers, the news agency reports.
RuDASA chairperson Karl le Roux stated that the intimidation, violence and loss of life that has marred the strike must be condemned.
“We also, however, believe that much of the unnecessary loss of life must be laid at the door of government, which after nearly 10 years has still failed to a minimum services agreement in place for essential services.”
RuDASA urged government and unions to reach a miniumum services agreement urgently once the strike was resolved.
The organisation also promised to work on an agreement for rural health facilities in the next two months.
Government needs to produce a rural friendly human resources plan in the next 18 months, it stated.
RuDASA and MSF (Doctors without Borders) held the 14th Annual Rural Health Conference in Swaziland on the weekend under the theme ‘Inspiration without Borders’.
The South African Medical Association, SAMA, today blamed the public sector strike on the “government’s failure to take workers’ demands seriously”.
The medical body supported employee demands for adequate pay as well as their right to take industrial action.
“Government has, for years, refused to negotiate and conclude a Minimum Service Level Agreement, which would have gone a long way to preventing the current chaos prevailing in our public hospitals,” the chairman Dr Norman Mabasa, said in a statement.
“It is clear that the Department of Health has no contingency plan to deal with the strike … using the military is completely inadequate”.
Doctors are picking up the pieces and this is an “unacceptable abuse of our members”, the medical body stated. But SAMA called on members to deliver appropriate care to patients.
The association also condemned “all acts of violence and intimidation from both the State and striking workers”, while urging its members to join peaceful picketing, marches and public demonstrations.
“SAMA calls on Government to concede to the reasonable demands of public sector workers and immediately sign a Minimum Service Level Agreement,” Mabasa stated.
As reported on this blog yesterday, patients experiencing problems accessing chronic medicines during the strike can contact the SA National AIDS Council Nerve Centre for assistance at (012) 395 9078/9, (012) 395 9081/7/8/9 or (012) 395 9090 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Patients struggling to get their chronic medicines during the public sector strike can contact the SA National AIDS Council Nerve Centre for assistance at (012) 395 9078/9, (012) 395 9081/7/8/9 or (012) 395 9090 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SANAC appealed to health workers today to make sure that the strike did not interrupt the flow of life-saving antiretrovirals and TB drugs to patients needing them, and to ensure that diabetic, epileptic and blood pressure patients could also get their medications.
More than a million South Africans are on ARVS and disrupting their treatment could jeopardise their health and increase the risk of drug resistance.
“A failure to ensure an uninterrupted flow of medication…will be seen for years to come and could adversely affect thousands of people,” warned SANAC deputy chairperson Mark Heywood.
“SANAC acknowledges the right of health workers to take industrial action. However we are concerned that persons who are reliant on the public health sector for medical care are being turned away, and in some cases intimidated, when presenting themselves for re-stocking of their medication.”
The Treatment Action Campaign and the human rights and health NGO, Section 27, also raised concerns about the impact of the strike.
“We support the demands of workers and their right to strike. But we regret the growing polarisation, pain and loss of life. This is now a political crisis that requires political leadership and a solution,” said TAC chairperson Nonkosi Khumalo.
The organisations urged government to pay health workers properly, saying they understood the anger of workers.
“But TAC and SECTION27 are concerned that striking workers have engaged in intimidation and violence against non-striking workers and endangered the lives of patients. It is vital that the workers hold the moral high ground in this strike.”
The organisations called on COSATU and all unions “to support efforts to ensure that people requiring chronic medicines” receive them.
They called on the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, to take urgent measures to stabilise the health system including:
• Re-deploying bureaucrats from overstaffed offices of the national and provincial health departments into healthcare facilities.
• Holding hospital CEOs to account for performance.
• Identifying and punishing corruption
• Urgently finalising a rural health strategy, and
• Urgently finalising a reasonable human resource for health plan with sufficient resources to implement it.
The Health Professions Council of SA expressed its shock today at the “effects of the current strike action on the lives of patients”.
HPCSA Acting Registrar Ms Marella O’Reilly said: “We emphatically denounce the unlawful strike action.
“It is unacceptable that striking emergency service workers in healthcare environments are either interfering with or refusing to assist healthcare practitioners who are providing an essential service.”
The Council called for “urgent mediation to ensure that essential services deliver on the public’s constitutional right to healthcare services”.