Khayelitsha hospital employees accuse management of intimidation

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Khayelitsha Hospital was opened in 2012. Archive photo: Dalton Ndongeni

Khayelitsha District Hospital (KDH) employees are accusing management of intimidation and victimisation.

“You go somewhere and find a crying staff member on the corridors because they have just been victimised,” said KDH shop steward Doctor Moses Witbooi, one of the Khayelitsha District Hospital employees who went in front of the Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings (CPEU) in Parliament on Thursday.

Employees who are members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), have signed what is known as the Sigogo Petition. They are unhappy with the findings of an investigation by the Public Service Commission (PSC) into alleged maladministration, unfair- dismissals, poor working conditions, fraud and victimisation of employees at the hospital. They want the National Council of Provinces to intervene.

NEHAWU is the majority union at the hospital. There have been numerous allegations of ill treatment of patients by staff at the hospital, many on social media. This includes photos of patients sleeping on the floor. Organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign have protested against what they claim are the poor conditions in the hospital.

Committee Chairperson Dumisani Ximbi said they had invited the provincial Department of Health but the invitation had been declined. The health department instead referred the committee to the PSC report.

“When we come to work every morning we want to deliver clinical services to the people. … we do not go to work in that hospital to be fighting labour related matters, to be fighting intimidation and victimisation,” said Witbooi.

Witbooi told the committee that despite the PSC investigation and its recommendations, there had been no difference. He said employees had stopped relying on the PSC for help because it had done nothing for them in the past.

Olwethu Sigogo, chairperson of NEHAWU at the hospital and the first name on the petition, said workers who were supposed to tell their stories in front of the CPEU had been intimidated into not coming. They were not granted leave they had asked for.

“We were very disappointed with the outcomes of the PSC, we were very disappointed with the way in which the PSC did its investigation,” he said.

“All the staff members that we have mentioned — those who were victimised — were never interviewed by the commissioner. They only met with us and the management, not the ordinary staff members that deal directly with the patients. Those that feel the burning issues that are on the ground were never interviewed,” said Sigogo.

Former employees who were dismissed say they were not even interviewed by the PSC during the investigation. Former Head of HR Abduragmaan Ernstzen said though most of the complaints to the PSC dealt with HR issues, he was never interviewed.

Some employees and former employees of KDH testified to the parliamentary committee. One person claimed that a doctor drugged a nurse and raped her but was only suspended with no formal hearing. Management concluded that their sex was consensual.

Western Cape Department of Health Communication Deputy Director, Mark van der Heever said the department had a zero tolerance stance on abuse, sexual abuse and harassment and that without any details about the nurse involved he could not comment on the incident.

The PSC, presented by North West Provincial Commissioner Doctor Moeletsi Leballo, stated that there was merit in most of the accusations made by NEHAWU but the “severity and veracity” of certain conclusions by NEHAWU were contestable.

Leballo read from the report: “The PSC found that whilst the facts around the specific allegations differed, it nonetheless pointed to a level of procedural or systemic failures.”

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