Stay-at-home EMS workers in Eastern Cape in overtime scandal

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Emergency Medical Services workers in the Eastern Cape are staying home on leave, but are still being paid overtime, because their names appear on the overtime roster for the month. Jane Cowley, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow MEC of Health in the Eastern Cape writes that this revelation has been made by dedicated EMS workers, who are fed up with working their full quota of excess hours, while watching colleagues who sit at home and earn the same overtime hours while doing nothing. This amounts to looting of the public purse.

It is believed that more than R5.5m has been paid out for excess hours rostered between December 2018 and May 2019, whether those hours were worked or not. Managers have watched with frustration as productivity within the EMS sector has dwindled and absenteeism has increased.

Last year, the director of EMS Services released a circular stating that with effect from the 1st of December 2018, all excess hours would be calculated based on actual hours worked in excess of 160 hours per month. This was in line with the Remuneration and Working Hours Policy signed by the MEC for Health, which been discussed and accepted at the Eastern Cape Chamber meetings.

However, on the 7th of August this year, the superintendent general of the Eastern Cape Health Department released a memorandum stating the above circular be withdrawn with immediate effect, and that the department would revert to paying excess hours based on rostered time.

The rostered hours system does not comply with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act or with public service policies.

I have written to the MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, to urge her to reverse the decision by the superintendent general with immediate effect and halt any further payments of excess hours rostered that were not actually worked.

In a province which is currently facing severe financial challenges, this wasteful expenditure cannot be tolerated and the implementor of this foolhardy system should face serious consequences. We need to prioritise the needs of patients.

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