MEC must act as KZN Central Medicine depot staff strike looms

By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

The DA in KwaZulu-Natal has been reliably informed that the province’s Central Medicines depot, based at Clarewood Hospital, is set to come to a standstill with protest action by staff looming.

The move follows ongoing rumours that the depot is set to close and that their jobs are on the line.

On Wednesday last week, the DA engaged telephonically with staff during a lunch time picket and tried to reassure them that their fears were unfounded and that they should return to work.

This after a senior Health department official confirmed with me that the depot will remain open.

On Friday, staff resumed protest action with a demand for clarity from the DoH.  They again cited uncertainty over their futures and claimed to be in possession of a confirmation date for the closure of the depot.

An informal discussion I had with KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo the same day was inconclusive after he said that staff should follow the usual protocol to raise grievances.

What the MEC should have done was act immediately to prevent further confusion and the impeding paralysis of medicine supply to the province.

A possible consequence is that medicines will not be delivered to hospitals and clinics in KZN.  It also means a possible total ‘stock-out’ once in-facility stocks are depleted.

The situation in KZN is already fragile with medicine supply and availability at critically low levels with many facilities only receiving stock on a weekly basis. This often also dependent on facilities lobbying and vying with each other for the limited stock that comes into the province.

The continued victimisation and mistrust within so many of KZN’s health institutions is a product of the system of patronage so entrenched in this department.

This latest incident is a clear illustration of leadership weakness where opportunities are crony-based. It is unjust and must be rooted out.

The DA is informed that Dr Simelane and Vusi Dhlamini from the DoH , met staff representatives earlier this morning.

We now expect the MEC to immediately provide clarity to the people of KZN and to act to dispel any unfounded rumours that threaten to place the delivery of health services at risk.