The Gauteng Health Department has handed two-month suspensions and final written warnings to 40 employees of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital for actions during an illegal strike that the Human Rights Commission declared were human rights violations.
Actions of staff at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital during a 2018 strike violated human rights by denying a “considerable number” of patients the right to access healthcare services, an SA Human Rights Commission inquiry has found almost two-and-a-half years after the incident, wrote MedicalBrief reporting on the SAHRC’s findings in 2020.
Notwithstanding “legitimate frustrations, by shutting down and blocking access to the hospital, the SAHRC found that staff acted outside of their right to assembly and protest and had at their disposal other avenues to canvass their legitimate grievances”. These actions were “tantamount to a human rights violation as they denied a considerable number of patients the right to access healthcare services” .
“The national incident, on 31 May 2018, brought parts of the hospital to a standstill and left the facilities dishevelled. These events appeared to be the result of a long simmering dispute between hospital workers and the Gauteng Department of Health over wage increases and non-payment of bonuses. The protests … drew attention to the potential for healthcare to be similarly disrupted by protest action.”
“The workers are understood to be primarily cleaners, porters and operators. The protest action severely disrupted the hospital’s operations, with protesters barring access to the building, trashing certain facilities, and even interrupting surgical procedures.”
The Citizen reports that through video footage, the facility was able to identify 45 employees who were part of the strike. They were subsequently charged “for embarking on an unprocedural, unprotected and/or unlawful industrial action”, Gauteng MEC for health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said.
“Of the 45 employees, 40 were found guilty by the presiding officer and were given two months suspension without pay and a final written warning. The disciplinary hearing is still ongoing concerning the other five employees and the hospital anticipates completing that process by end of May,” he added.