Staff shortages at Pelonomi far from resolved

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Issues over staff shortages at Pelonomi Hospital’s embattled maternity ward in Bloemfontein are far from resolved, with still only 8 nurses being hired at the ward, contrary to the 13 the Free State Health department promised.

According to the Public Servants Association of South Africa’s (PSA’s) Lynsie Pelser, none of those eight nurses who were hired, specialised in maternity care. This despite the spokesperson of the Health Department, Mondli Mvambi, who said on June 26, after the second protest at this ward last month, that they are certain nurses who will work at the ward are qualified to ensure maternal and neonatal deaths are minimised.

In addition to this, Pelser says one of these newly hired nurses has since been placed on sick leave and is yet to return, while two are threatening to resign, citing difficult work conditions as the reason.

Pelser says the union is still in talks with the department on the matter, even though it does not seem the Head of Department (HOD) and the MEC of Health are aware Pelonomi management has not carried out parts of the agreement, which all the relevant parties signed. These nurses were hired following strike action at the ward by nurses on Monday, June 4, and again on Tuesday, June 26.

The second strike occurred on the back of a patient dying due to delays caused by staff shortages. In an agreement between the management of the Free State Health Department and different labour unions, the 13 permanent nurses were to be appointed on June 28, two days after protest action, with additional nurses set to be appointed from June 26 on a fixed term contract. The department also promised to make provision for adequate security for the ward, including escorting patients through the hospital.

Pelser maintains the department did not keep its promises, and that strike action at the embattled maternity ward is imminent. She says should their engagements with the department prove not to be fruitful, the union will take the matter up with the South African Human Rights Commission, formally declaring a dispute citing the department’s failure to carry out its promises as the cause.

Meanwhile, the health department is yet to respond to OFM News’ enquiries on the matter.

Olebogeng Motse / OFM News