Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, confirmed on Thursday that preliminary figures show that four people are believed to have lost their lives “in a manner that could be directly attributed to the strike”.
“We have a legal team which we’re consulting to look at what our options are in that regard,” he told the journalists, adding that he will not go into too much detail.
The Minister and Gauteng Health and Wellness MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko were speaking at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg.
The officials were conducting site visits at various hospitals affected by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) strike action, which threaten the lives of healthcare workers and patients.
Earlier in the morning, they were at Helen Joseph Hospital where protesters closed the main entrance of the health facility with burning tyres, preventing patients and families from entering the establishment.
The Gauteng Health Department has since instituted a court interdict against the Nehawu to stop their members from obstructing the rendering of health services to patients.
Despite the interdict, the Minister told the media that there are still challenges in some of the hospitals in Gauteng.
According to reports, workers are demanding a 10% salary increase, while government has offered 4.7%.
Phaahla said the department is coordinating a nationwide plan working with MECs to ensure that the situation returns to “normal” speedily.
“We again want to appeal to the leadership of Nehawu that while we don’t want to interfere with their rights as enshrined in the Constitution to withdraw their services, this must be done in the manner that respects that health services are essential services.”
He also pleaded with the union members to desist from violence, physical intimidation and disruption of services.
“Those who engage in these activities must also face the consequences. We’re not going to shy away from our responsibilities in that regard.”
Nkomo-Ralehoko announced that the province has put in place contingency measures and will ensure that the appointments that were cancelled due to disruptions are rescheduled especially surgeries.
The MEC said they are also working on a catch-up programme for chronic patients who may need to refill their repeat prescriptions.
“We’ve been really hit hard by the strike and you’ve been assisting us, Minister.”
Meanwhile, Nkomo-Ralehoko said no hospital does not have medication because the hospital CEOs are working together.
“Where there is a shortage of linen or medication, they’re able to reroute where it’s needed the most,” she added.
Phaahla has also expressed his gratitude to the healthcare workers across the country who have been holding the fort and are still able to go to work despite security risks.
“We thank them for their diligence and care and how they had to take all sorts of risks to make sure they come to save lives in hospitals.”
The Minister also stressed “no work, no pay”, while those who will be identified to have caused disruptions will be disciplined, the Minister added.
Source: South African Government News Agency