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More than 70 Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) members in Nelson Mandela Bay district today held a peaceful march to the district offices of the Eastern Cape Department of Health where they handed in a memorandum of demands.

The march was called for by the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and started from Nehawu’s offices at Greenacres shopping centre and proceeded to the department’s offices in Parsons Hill.

Marchers were holding placards with various demands written on them. Some of the demands on display were: “Immediate payment of all outstanding benefits”, “Proper renovations of healthcare facilities”, “Insourcing of all unspecialised outsourced services, especially security”, and  “We demand full time employment of community health workers”.

Nehawu provincial deputy secretary, Sweetness Qwabe said, “We are registering our disappointment to the MEC of Health, Nomakhosazana Meth, about the poor management in Sarah Baartman and Nelson Mandela districts. Management there don’t have the capacity to manage health facilities.

“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, NMB district has been identified as a hot spot of the disease. We attribute this to poor management.

“We are calling on MEC Meth to come and address the shortage of staff as per the recommendations made by the Public Protector. They renovated a section of Dora Nginza hospital and added 100 beds, but employed clinical staff only, without employing cleaners and porters. Who is going to serve the nurses? Are they going to double as porters and cleaners? If these issues are not addressed, the two districts will be Covid-19 hotspots again.”

 Qwabe said Sarah Baartman district was buckling under severe shortages of competent managers. “Most managers are on an acting basis. They don’t have authority to make decisions. Care workers should be employed because they are the backbone of the profession. It is care workers who trace people who have defaulted. Care workers also bring medicine to people who are unable to travel to clinics,” said Qwabe.

Thembisile Nogampula of the Treatment Action Campaign slammed managers at the district offices for making decisions without consulting communities. Nogampula said, “Management is not communicating with communities. We only see decisions being taken without our consultation. We were never informed that Orsmond T.B Hospital will be turned into a psychiatric hospital. The two districts are the worst as far as performance is concerned. The hospitals and clinics are poorly equipped and the buildings are crumbling.”

Department of Health chief of staff, Sbusiso Nogwanya accepted the petition and promised to respond within the stipulated time.