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No end in sight to Tšepong strike

Limpho Sello
Maseru

The Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital strike enters its fifth day today, with no end in sight to the standoff between management and staff, over salaries.
The workers downed tools on Wednesday morning after their request for an overhaul of the hospital’s salary structure had been rejected by management.
The hospital had offered a four-percent salary increase instead, which the workers dismissed out of hand.

Yesterday, a handful of the workers could be seen milling outside the hospital, popularly known as Tšepong, after ignoring calls by the Minister of Health, Dr Pinkie Manamolela, to return to work while their grievances were being looked into.

Apart from the workers, who told the Sunday Express that they would not relent until their demands were met, there was little other movement around the hi-tech hospital, which is co-owned by government (30-percent) and a consortium of private investors led by South Africa’s Tšepong PTY Ltd.

The Sunday Express crew was yesterday denied entry into the hospital by security guards, who insisted only those critically ill were being allowed onto the premises.
The Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital Public Relations Officer, Ms Limpho Seeiso, yesterday told the Sunday Express that the hospital authorities were still awaiting feedback from government regarding funds they had requested for the workers’ salaries.

“We are still waiting to hear from the Ministry of Health, whether we are getting the money we had requested so we could pay the employees.
“Our management had a meeting with the Ministry, showing that we need more money besides the amount that was proposed in the 2014/15 national budget, as it didn’t include the increment.”
Asked what measures the hospital had taken to end the strike, Ms Seeiso said: “We had asked the workers not to go on strike in the first place, and even made them aware that the strike was illegal.
“Again, we were still in negotiations with the workers when they decided to strike. So until we get feedback from the Ministry, there is little we can do as a hospital.”

Meanwhile, Dr Manamolela reportedly visited the hospital on Friday and appealed to the workers to end the strike while their grievances were being looked into.
However, a registered nurse and midwife, Ms Moroesi Maile, yesterday told the Sunday Express the Minister had nothing to offer the workers.
“The Minister said she had nothing for us in terms of the money we are demanding; she said she had only come to us with God to beg us to return to work.
“I took the opportunity to ask the Minister on what conditions were we supposed to work, and what was she promising us as government?

But she said since she was not the employer, she was not in a position to answer that particular question.
“She also said she was busy with her colleagues trying to resolve the issue but we are not patient, anymore.
“We have been patient for four years since the opening of this hospital; our patience has run out,” Ms Maile said.
“What has brought us here is money; it’s only when we get the money we are demanding that we will leave this place and go back to work.
“Even if it takes us forever, we will wait here until something happens.
“The sad part about this issue is that Tšepong is the backbone of all the hospitals and clinics in this country, and for as long as the strike is still on, Lesotho’s health system is going to suffer, so it’s up to government to ensure Basotho do not suffer.
“And the only way for this to happen is to listen to our demands.”

The Sunday Express sought Dr Manamolela’s side of the story yesterday afternoon but she repeatedly said she could not “talk” as she was in a meeting.

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