State pa­tients turned away due to strike

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - JAMES THABO MOLELEKWA

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

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