The Democratic Alliance condemns in the strongest terms the illegal strike by nurses that is planned to take place across the province today, in protest against the termination of contracts for Community Healthcare Workers and Grant-funded Covid-19 Healthcare Workers at the end of March.
There have already been reports of incidents at some provincial hospitals. For instance, at the Cradock Hospital, desperately ill patients, including children, have been sent home to fend for themselves. Nurses and doctors have also been turned away at the entrance to the facility.
These actions place patients’ lives directly in harm’s way, which goes against the nurse’s pledge to serve humanity and put the patient’s health first.
We sympathise with the community healthcare workers who have been poorly treated by the Department over the past two years, despite contributing significantly to combatting Covid-19 in the province.
However, in terms of the Labour Relations Act, section 65 D 1, nurses are categorised as essential workers and may not strike.
We will never condone illegal strike action, especially strike action that could result in loss of life.
While the lives of our citizens are at stake, Eastern Cape MEC for Health, Nomakosazana Meth, is campaigning in Cradock.
We call upon MEC Meth to visit the Cradock Hospital to see for herself the impact that this strike is having on patients. She must prioritise resolving the strike and preventing potentially dire consequences for patients throughout the province.
Furthermore, the DA calls on MEC Meth to assess the viability of extending certain contracts for three months to maximise efforts and improve Covid-19 vaccination outcomes in the province. It is worrying that many public health vaccination sites are no longer in operation.
At the same time, contract workers must understand that a contract, by its very nature, runs for a fixed term only.
No government in the world can afford to absorb all contract workers and make them permanent employees. To do so is simply unsustainable.