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Tšepong begins disciplinary hearings against striking nurses

  • as crippling strike enters third week

Limpho Sello

QUEEN Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) authorities have ordered striking nurses to attend disciplinary hearings starting Tuesday.

This as the strike enters its third week with no agreement in sight despite a series of talks involving all stakeholders, namely the nurses, QMMH management and newly appointed Health Minister Semano Sekatle last week.

QMMH nurses and nursing assistants went on strike on 1 February 2021 to press the government to award them salary increments to match their counterparts in other government and private institutions.

QMMH nurses say they have not been awarded any increments since 2012 when the government and the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) increased the salaries of nurses at other institutions.

According to the Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA), nurses at QMMH earn about M9000 each per month. The figure is way less than the M13 000 earned by their colleagues in CHAL facilities and other government hospitals.

Opened in 2011, QMMH is owned by the government but is run by the Tšepong consortium comprising of five companies, namely Netcare Healthcare Group and Afri’nnai of South Africa, as well as Excel Health, Women Investment and D10 Investments from Lesotho.

Although QMMH operates as a public-private sector partnership (PPP) agreement between the government and the Tšepong consortium, the hospital’s public relations manager, Mothepane Thahane, last week said nursing staff and nursing assistants were left out when the government reviewed the salaries of health workers in 2012.

The nurses’ strike followed the health ministry’s failure to address the nurses’ grievances by the 27 January 2021 deadline given by the nurses.

The strike enters its third week tomorrow with nurses and nursing assistants refusing to yield to the hospital authorities’ directive for them to return to work.

They said they were only attending to critical cases out of compassion for ordinary people.

QMMH public relations manager, Mothepane Thahane, had last week said the workers should return to work failing which they would face disciplinary hearings for ignoring lawful orders.

A nurses’ representative, Manoka Motloung, this weekend said they had been given letters demanding that they attend disciplinary hearings for failing to heed management’s calls for them to return to work.

She said they were given the letters on Friday shortly parliament’s Social Cluster Committee chairperson, Fako Moshoeshoe, visited the institution to beg the nurses to return to work.

His mission ended in failure after the nurses ignored his pleas.

“We didn’t agree with him (Moshoeshoe) because there are so many people who have promised to help us but they never did,” Ms Motloung said.

“We therefore told him that we would not return to work until we get what we want.”

She said soon after Mr Moshoeshoe’s departure, the hospital authorities told the nurses to either work full time or stay at home.

“We tried to reason with the management because we have been attending to critical cases and if they want us to stay at home, it means that those patients will suffer.

“Our intention is to save their lives. But we are also fighting for what is rightfully ours.

“We will all go to work as we have been doing all along. But there will only be one nurse working in each ward,” Ms Motloung said.

She said some of the nurses were given letters asking them to attend disciplinary hearings beginning Tuesday. She however, said they suspected a plot to divide the nurses because not all of them had received the letters.

Unless it ends soon, the strike will certainly cripple the already ailing health sector which is struggling to deal with Covid-19 infections which have risen exponentially since the end of the festive season at the beginning of last month.

Lesotho had recorded a cumulative total of 9852 infections and 225 deaths by yesterday.

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