Makhosazana Mdlalose, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Health
Striking Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) employees in KwaZulu-Natal deserve honest answers from provincial Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo following allegations that they have been excluded from the negotiation process.
The claim comes after workers approached the DA for assistance, maintaining that there is no union dedicated to them and that they are yet to be advised which union the MEC is negotiating with on their behalf.
The strike comes after a commitment by the province’s health department, to introduce salary grading and danger pay some eight years ago. The changes, gazetted in 2007, are yet to come into effect with the result that more than 60 EMRS employees downed tools at the weekend.
The DA does not condone strike action, particularly within what is possibly the most essential service area. However, we are sympathetic to the plight of these men and women who have clearly been given the run around for the past eight years.
The strike comes soon after it was revealed that hundreds of emergency service vehicles have been sitting unused in a field in Durban despite a massive shortage of ambulances in the province. This shortage, combined with the fact that EMRS workers are turning to opposition parties in desperation, is representative of a crisis in emergency medical care in the province.
The MEC’s response to the matter – that striking paramedics will be disciplined and others brought in to do their jobs, while the DOH will “beg, borrow and steal” emergency medical staff from other areas – is far from ideal. Firstly, it weakens the services available to other areas. Secondly, it is indicative of the department’s high-handed approach to date.
The MEC and his department should be looking to prevent strike action at all costs. Instead, they have allowed the problem to fester for eight long years. The DA calls upon the MEC to approach this issue with a fresh attitude and to engage with EMRS workers in an open and honest manner. They must be given the answers they deserve.