Crisis at Burgersdorp Hospital as nursing staff go on strike

The Burgersdorp Hospital is in crisis, with hospital staff on strike since Monday over critical staff shortages that have simply been ignored by the Department of Health.

The hospital is currently functioning with one nurse on duty, while the rest have downed tools. Patients are being referred to hospitals in neighbouring towns, but there is genuine concern over casualties that need immediate attention, which they may not get due to the strike.

I will be writing to MEC for Health, Helen Sauls-August to ask for her urgent intervention and will also be submitting questions to the legislature for further clarity.

It is a travesty that this hospital, which includes a maternity ward, general ward, paediatric ward, a high-risk clinic, casualty department and theatre, has essentially been brought to a complete standstill because the Department simply does not care about their own staff.

While the Department has drawn up a new organogram, with staff aligned to the needs of the hospital, the plan has simply not been implemented. Meanwhile four registered midwives have left the hospital and have not been replaced, with the Department saying they don’t have the funds.

The DA has learnt that, due to the staff shortages, at times one midwife has had to work between the maternity ward, general ward and be available to assist in casualty and theatre.

This can result in women in labour being left unattended, because the midwife on duty has to attend to an emergency or may be assisting with a caesarean in theatre.

The nursing staff who have downed their tools are at their wits end. They have made it clear that they do not want to strike but have been left no other option as their pleas for more help are simply being ignored.

Their demands are not unreasonable, fill the vacant posts and implement the new organogram.

District officials, who visited the hospital on Tuesday, have simply made the same promises that staff have heard time and time again. They will look at the organogram and see if they can advertise the posts. Promises the nurses have heard all to many times.

The Democratic Alliance understands the terrible frustration of these dedicated and selfless people and urge the Department of Health to address the challenges faced by the hospital as a matter of extreme urgency.

A DA-led government will ensure that public funds earmarked for healthcare will be spent on a well- equipped and sufficiently staffed healthcare service to the people of the Eastern Cape.