KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has strongly condemned the taxi protest in Pietemaritzburg‚ which resulted in the burning of a departmental vehicle and disruptions to healthcare services at Edendale Hospital, reports The Times.
The MEC said that‚ in addition to the torching of the vehicle on Langalibalele Street in the provincial capital’s CBD‚ the protesting taxi drivers blocked access to and from Edendale Hospital – resulting in some patients having to be sent home.
The report says taxi drivers barricaded roads into and out of the city on Thursday‚ demanding to see Mayor Themba Njilo about traffic fines that they say are excessive. Township residents and learners were stranded as roads were blocked with stones and burning tyres.
The report says the drivers’ first demand was that all issued traffic fines should be expunged. They also demanded that traffic officers should issue tickets that they can afford‚ that taxi drivers should not be stopped between 5am and 8am and that traffic fines for unroadworthy vehicles should be issued to the owner‚ and not the taxi driver.
Dhlomo said while patients struggled to get to the hospital‚ some operations had to be cancelled as doctors could not get to work on time. At the hospital’s emergency department not all staff reported on duty‚ so the report said patients with non-life threatening ailments were discharged and asked to return the next day. The urology clinic cancelled appointments due to unavailability of the doctor. In the orthopaedics unit‚ most doctors arrived only around midday‚ and are only doing emergency work. The surgical disciplines did not have capacity to run full theatre operation lists.
Dhlomo said while surgical emergencies were carrying on‚ scheduled surgical operations had to be cancelled. Dhlomo said patients with ear‚ nose and throat-related ailments were seen late as the doctor could not get through on time. This was also the case with the ophthalmologist‚ who might have to cancel a few cases. He said the obstetrics unit was only able to run one theatre. A second theatre was only opened just before 1pm.
“What has happened here is completely unacceptable. We cannot afford to have a situation where access to healthcare – including for people in life-threatening situations – can be disrupted by a few people who have grievances‚” Dhlomo said in the report. He said no matter how legitimate the taxi operators believed their grievances to be‚ patients should not die just because of the irresponsible actions of a few.
On the burning of the departmental vehicle‚ Dhlomo said the department always received complaints from the communities that it does not provide the public with enough vehicles – including ambulances – to service them.
“If the very few that we have get burnt‚ it makes the situation even worse. Community concerns‚ even those of the taxi industry‚ cannot be solved better by burning or destroying government property that is meant to service the community‚” Dhlomo said.The Times report