PORT Alfred Hospital staff went on strike last Wednesday, which resulted in patients being diverted to Settlers Hospital in Grahamstown.
Talk of the Town was informed of the strike by a member of the public, and when a reporter arrived he found employees demonstrating outside, chanting and singing. But it looked like a peaceful protest.
Asking one of the staff members about the protest, she did not deny it nor did she agree. On learning she was talking to TotT reporter, she asked: “Are you here for a protest?”
She referred the reporter to Netcare staff members who refused to talk about it, but rather suggested that the reporter should wait for the hospital manager, who was in a meeting at the time.
Upon waiting at the help desk office, the reporter overheard women receptionists talking to each other, saying that those who were protesting were being given till 12 noon to make up their minds.
“Some of them [protestors] are outsourced so even their unions cannot defend them if they get fired,” one said.
At the Netcare office in which the TotT reporter was referred to in order to talk to the hospital manager, there were people who said they were from Port Elizabeth and also waiting for the hospital manager.
Most of them were in Netcare uniforms. Staff members were not keen to comment, recommending that we wait for the hospital manager.
But as things unfolded, workers were outside the help desk office chanting nonstop.
Andile Ngqunga, who was representing workers from Nehawu, said: “We have submitted our petition to management and you can go inside and talk to them.”
In response to a question about their grievances, Ngqunga said he could not discuss it with the media without being authorised by his upper structures.
While addressing the demonstrators, Ngqunga said: “Comrades, the management agreed with some of our demands and assured us that no one will be fired.”
He mentioned that a second meeting with the hospital management was scheduled for last Friday. Several attempts to get hold of hospital management were unsuccessful.
Despite Friday’s scheduled meeting which was meant to take two days after the protest, provincial health spokesperson Lwandile Sicetshwa said: “That matter was resolved on the same day and workers returned to their workstation on the same day.”