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Strike cripples hospital

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

LADYBRAND — Patients at Mantsopa Hospital in Ladybrand were discharged on Friday after doctors and nurses joined the nationwide strike called by civil servants to press for better pay.

South African civil servants downed tools a fortnight ago to demand higher wages and improved working conditions.

They want an 8.6 percent hike on their salaries.

They also want their housing allowances increased from R500 to R1 000 a month.

The South African government has however said it is only prepared to offer the workers a six percent salary adjustment and housing allowances of M700 a month.

The civil servants have rejected the government offer, triggering strikes in all government departments across the country.

A South African teacher with a diploma earns about R8 000 monthly.

Those with a degree are said to be getting a gross salary of about R13 000.

Nurses with a diploma in general nursing and midwifery earn a monthly salary of about R9 000.

Those with a degree earn about R13 000. 

Mantsopa Hospital, in Ladybrand, is a government-run facility that offers services to mostly poor residents of the border town and surrounding farms.

When the Sunday Express visited the hospital on Friday there were only two nurses on duty.

Patients and security guards said doctors had left earlier that day.

A female nurse who was on duty said they had to discharge patients because there would not be enough staff to look after them by yesterday afternoon.

She said they had called the patients’ family members to pick up their sick relatives.

She said critical patients were advised to seek medical attention at private hospitals and clinics.

Private hospitals and clinics have not been affected by the strike and are still operating.

By Friday afternoon there were only a handful of patients at Mantsopa Hospital.

Patients who spoke to this paper said the hospital had never been as quiet as it was.

There were only two patients in a children’s ward.

Some wards were empty.

“We have discharged patients,” the nurse who refused to be named said.

“No one is going to take care of them. There are only two of us left here after doctors joined the strike.

“We are also joining the strike starting tomorrow (yesterday).

“There will be nurses tonight and when they knock off in the morning there will be no one to look after patients.”

The strike has also paralysed operations at most government-run schools across South Africa.

Teachers at two government high schools in Manyatseng, a working-class suburb in Ladybrand, have also downed tools.

Students at Lereng High School said they were told to go back home on Friday morning.

At Sehlabeng High School, also in Ladybrand, students have not been attending classes since Wednesday after teachers joined the protest.

Grade 12 students have been among those seriously affected by the strike as they are due to write their final exams starting in October.

Students from Lesotho who attend school in South Africa have also been affected by the strike.

Private schools like Yeshua College and St Gabriel in Ladybrand have however not been affected by the strike with lessons proceeding normally.

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