About 500 nurses and nursing assistants at six hospitals and clinics under the Raymond Mhlaba Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape protested on Monday, demanding a R1,200 rural allowance, while ill patients went unattended.
The nurses want the Eastern Cape Department of Health head Dr Rolene Wagner to pay them rural allowances they claim are being paid to some staff nurses in the provinces.
According to GroundUp, they claim the allowance is part of an agreement made between unions and the provincial health department at a 2019 bargaining council. The allowance was paid to all nurses working in rural areas until it was stopped in 2007. Now the provincial department says that only the 28 nurses who were named and won in the arbitration matter against the state are due to benefit from the allowance.
At Fort Beaufort Provincial Hospital, protesters burned rubbish and wood in front of the main gate before marching through town.
Thembinkosi Qwakanisa, an enrolled nursing assistant at Victoria Hospital in Alice, said representatives met Wagner in East London on 24 June, and told her more than 3,000 nurses were not receiving the allowance. “But (Wagner) walked out of the meeting and never came back,” he said.
While nurses picketed outside Fort Beaufort hospital, a staff nurse told GroundUp that of the 28 nurses, only five reported for duty. Patients had not received meals and medication.
Yonela Dekeda, provincial health department spokesperson, said the rural allowance was being paid in accordance with a collective agreement negotiated and signed by the employer and trade unions, and that the nurses currently protesting are in work categories lower than the professional nurses. “From the employer’s perspective, these categories are not listed as part of the professional nurses who are to benefit from the rural allowance agreement.”
Dekeda denied that Wagner walked out of the meeting with nursing representatives last Friday. “The executive management team were addressed by the chief financial officer and director of labour relations on 15 June and again on 24 June. The department head engaged with representatives and the collective bargaining process was explained.”
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