State patients turned away due to strike
THOUSANDS of state hospital patients needing medical tests are being asked to return later as the strike by staff at the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) continues.
The DA’s Jack Bloom said he was dismayed that the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) vowed to intensify the strike by more than 5 000 workers at the NHLS. Bloom said the negative effects of the strike would become increasingly serious as thousands of medical tests were delayed.
Gauteng has been hardest hit by the strike as most NHLS laboratories are at a complete standstill, while a small number are working with minimal staff.
According to Bloom, the cashstrapped NHLS is facing mounting expenses as they are now forced to pay private laboratories for the most urgent tests.
Chief executive at the NHLS Professor Shabir Madhi has informed the heads of provincial health departments that the NHLS will outsource essential tests to private laboratories, and bill them for the work on NHLS tariffs. But no tests at all will be outsourced for primary health-care facilities.
According to Bloom, this means that “basic tests typically requested by clinics will only be done after the strike – these would include tests for TB, HIV, CD4 counts, Pap smears, sexually transmitted infections, haemoglobin, full blood count, urea and electrolytes, and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)”. Madhi said, “the outsourcing of services is being done as a last resort”.
“This outsourcing of services to the private laboratories could be avoided if non-striking workers were afforded the opportunity to exercise their right to work without being intimidated. In some instances this is being compounded by vandalism of NHLS laboratories,” he said.
Nehawu has already won a 7.3% salary increase for its members, but is insisting on other work improvements and on insourcing.
The Gauteng Health Department owes the NHLS more than R2 billion for work dating back about five years.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Madhi said NHLS was owed about R5bn. This was why they could not pay workers’ salary increases. He said if the money was not received by November, the NHLS would not pay salaries.
“We will be technically bankrupt by November should the provincial health departments not pay us,” Madhi said.
Nehawu said it was unhappy with the crumbling of the governance structure at NHLS, maladministration and continuing corruption.
“We have called for criminal investigations to be instituted on both the procurement manager and facility manager who have since resigned from NHLS due to the outcomes of the forensic investigation,” Khaya Xaba, spokesperson at Nehawu, said.
“We are making a call to the board to speed up the disciplinary cases against the chief executive, CFO and other managers implicated in maladministration,” he said.
“We know that 17 cars have been sold to friends by the facility manager and the procurement manager purchased vehicles without requests from end-users and didn’t follow the correct procurement procedures,” said Xaba.
According to Nehawu some of these vehicles are collecting dust while the institution continues to plead poverty.
A national bargaining forum is planned for today where a final decision may be taken about the offer and the strike. – Health-e News.
We know 17 cars were sold to the manager’s chums