EMS staff in illegal strike in the Eastern Cape

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Emergency medical services workers in the Eastern Cape remain on strike, reports Eyewitness News. It’s an illegal industrial action which has forced emergency measures to be implemented.

Members of EMS services downed tools claiming that they’re owed back pay, among other grievances.

The Eastern Cape Health’s Lwandile Sicwetsha is quoted in the report as saying: “The MEC is disappointed that workers have embarked on an illegal strike as it’s an essential service. Internal processes will be taken for on-duty staff involved in this illegal strike.”


Commenting on the strike, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) shadow minister for health in the Eastern Cape, Jane Cowley writes: “The Department of Health is playing Russian Roulette with the lives of over 6m people in the province, as it continues to ignore the plight of the Emergency Medical Services sector.

“People in crisis, who need urgent medical attention, are at times forced to wait for hours, because half of the already severely under-resourced ambulance service is stuck in a hopelessly cumbersome fleet management repair system. This crisis has now been compounded by the strike action.

“Heart breaking stories of young mothers and their babies dying because the ambulance could not get to them in time are too commonplace in the Eastern Cape.

“The current strike action within the Emergency Medical Services sector is a direct result of the consistent failure of the Department of Health to address critical issues. The day to day situation that Emergency Medical Services personnel have to deal with has simply become untenable. Critical staff shortages have resulted in many EMS employees working far longer hours than legally allowed, but their overtime is capped at 30% of their monthly salary. Overtime dating back to 2003 has still not been paid.

“The national norm is that one ambulance services 10,000 people, which means the Eastern Cape should have 640 functional ambulances, but currently only has a fleet of 416, with roughly half of those not functional.

“The department has also cut back the number of approved EMS courses, such as the Basic Ambulance Assistant (BAA) and the Critical Care Assistant (CAA) courses, despite a very strong recommendation by a University of Cape Town–led panel of experts to expand the short courses on offer.

“Instead of bolstering the sub-programme that provides life-giving care, the department has taken money away to cover the medico-legal claims. This makes no sense, as with a reduced budget, the EMS sub programme will be exposed to the very same risk of litigation.

“The Democratic Alliance cannot, however, condone strike action, which deprives the people of the Eastern Cape of what little medical service they have left.

“We understand the terrible frustration of these dedicated and selfless people and urge the Department of Health to address the challenges faced by the sector as a matter of extreme urgency.”

Eyewitness News report

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