A group of nurses at Lent-egeur Psychiatric Hospital picketed outside the facility last Thursday, demanding the removal of hospital’s management and accusing them of maladministration.
Chair of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) at the hospital, Thabo Nogqaza, accused the hospital of not paying staff for overtime worked, and complained that nurses had been evicted from staff housing.
The provincial health department, however, argued that the housing was only offered as a short-term solution – not for ongoing residency – and denied that staff were not paid overtime.
Mr Nogqaza claimed there was overcrowding and that some patients had to sleep on the floor, and also accused hospital ma-nagement of “harassing and mistreating” nurses and evicting them from their homes.
”The Department of Health issued eviction orders against some staff members demanding them to vacate the houses because they (Department of Health) want to privatise (the housing) without informing us.
“Where are we going to stay if they evict us. Some of us don’t have places to stay because we are coming from Free State, Eastern Cape and other provinces,” he said. We are willing to buy them (houses), but the management doesn’t want us to do that. That is among the reasons we want both the head of human resource and chief executive officer to step down,” he stated.
Mr Nogqaza said the management had disbanded meetings with the workers with no valid reason.
“There is no consultation between management and unions. The management disbanded the meetings with workers a long time ago. We don’t have a platform to raise our concerns so that it can be heard,” said Mr Nogqaza.
However, he vowed that whatever they are doing will be within the framework of the law.
“We will be picketing during our lunch times to ensure that whatever we are doing does not disturb our working periods,” he explained.
Explaining why they are picketing in small numbers, Mr Nogqaza said, “Some of us are working night shift and others are off. But in Denosa alone we have more than 200 members in good standing.”
Provincial health department spokesperson Bianca Carls confirmed that they were aware of grievances relating to the staff whose tenancy agreements ended in March last year.
“Lentegeur Hospital followed the necessary procedures which are in accordance with the provincial housing policy framework and Lentegeur Hospital’s hostel policy which was signed and agreed to by all unions in 2010,” said Ms Carls.
She added that hostels were specifically for students and staff who required short-term accommodation – and were not meant to provide long-term residence.
“Many of the protesting staff members have stayed in the hostel for many years, hampering other underprivileged staff and students from using the facilities. Also overtime is granted to all staff members after the correct documentation has been completed and approval has been granted.
“Should an employee have any concern regarding non payment and have evidence to support their claim they are welcome to make contact with the relevant department.
“A full investigation will take place and rectified if need be,” she explained.
Ms Carls said that the hospital had abandoned meetings with unions because some members had been disruptive and uncooperative. However, she emphasised that an Institutional Management and Labour Committee (IMLC) will resume in May to resume discussions. She also rubbished allegations that the hospital was overcrowded.
“Although psychiatric services continue to remain under pressure, particularly as a result of the high rate of substance abuse, acuity of patients and other social factors, our psychiatric hospital are not overcrowded,” she said.