AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - “Protests over the just demands of healthcare workers must not harm patients,” says Bishop of Mthatha

Wednesday, 15 March 2023 healthcare   bishops   trade unions  

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - The South African Labor Court of Appeal has ordered public health workers to end a week-long strike that has affected some of the country's main hospitals.
Members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU) have been on strike since last week after wage negotiations with the government failed.
Nehawu members opposed the government's proposed 4.7% increase for the 2023-24 financial year, saying the offer fell short of the high cost of living.
To deal with the strike, the South African Army (SANDF) sent its military health personnel to civilian hospitals, at the request of the Ministry of Health. According to the South African press, the strike resulted in the death of at least five people and serious inconvenience for those hospitalized.
"The method of fighting for fair wages must be balanced with the healthcare workers' oath to save lives", said Msgr. Sithembele Sipuka, Bishop of Mthatha in a statement in which he renewed his "sympathy for the cause of healthcare workers, but the end of their cause does not justify the cruel and criminal means" adopted to achieve it.
"Let me be clear, health workers in this country are not appreciated for their value of keeping poor people who cannot afford to go to private hospitals healthy and alive", underlines Msgr. Sipuka.
"They care for the poor with great sacrifice, most of the time with inadequate provision of means and space to do their work. As we saw during the height of Covid, sometimes they pay the ultimate price of losing their lives". Healthcare workers - continues the Bishop of Mthatha - "deserve to be respected, treated well and paid well. By all indications and facts, this is not done and not because of a lack of complaining by health workers but because of the lack of care by the authorities".
"This, however, does not justify their method of raising their noble call for a decent wage, which includes preventing the sick poor from accessing health services when they need them most, intimidating those who choose to work and damaging hospital properties". "I call on Catholic health workers, yes, to strive earnestly for a just wage but to dissociate themselves with forces and ideologies that lack respect for life which engage in lawless and criminal activities", concludes Msgr. Sipuka.
In addition to health workers, transport and port workers have also been on a war footing for months, all aggravated by a severe energy crisis with frequent power cuts. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 15/3/2023)