MEC lambasts unions for using delayed hospital opening as a “political game”
KwaMashu’s new R2,8 billion Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Memorial Hospital is set to open its doors at the end of March 2021.
KZN Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane, confirmed on Monday that the recruitment of 1400 staff members from more than 200 000 applications was being finalised in time for the opening of KwaMashu’s new hospital at the end of next month.
The MEC’s confirmation of the hospital’s opening comes in the wake of trade union concerns regarding why the hospital has not yet opened to provide more beds to raise a standard in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Public Servants Association (PSA) provincial manager Mlungisi Ndlovu last week called for the recruitment process to be sped up to increase bed capacity, while Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu raised questions about what the department was doing with the thousands of job applications it had received.
MEC alleges some unions playing political games over KwaMashu’s new hospital
Simelane said the Department had always had an open door policy to listen to recognised unions’ genuine concerns. However, she alleged that some had used KwaMashu’s new hospital to stir public emotion for political gain.
“I’m very disappointed and surprised that some unions, not all, are trying to turn the Dr Pixley KaIsaka Seme Memorial Hospital into a political game,” Simelane said.
“We engage regularly, freely, and openly with organised labour. Our HOD (head of department) meets with unions once a month. I also meet with the unions, along with the HOD, once a quarter. There is absolutely nothing that stops any union from raising any issue with us,” she said.
“What’s even harder to fathom is that the majority of the leadership of organised labour are able to call me directly. Some of them even send me texts via WhatsApp when they need certain things. I really don’t understand this apparent confusion when it comes to the Dr Pixley KaIsaka Seme Memorial Hospital,” she said.
Simelane said construction of KwaMashu’s new hospital had been completed but its opening had been delayed due to disruptions caused by the COVID – 19 pandemic.
“This is a 500 bed hospital. We took a decision that 450 of the beds would be used for COVID during the first wave if we have a shortage of beds. The other 50 beds would be set aside, because they’re for psychiatrist wards, which we did not want to adversely affect,” she said.
“We could not appoint new staff at the time, because it’s not an overnight process and we were already attending to pressures from COVID. We decided to keep staff who were employed for COVID – 19 working at their original sites, and bring them to the new hospital if the need arose. But, the rate of COVID infections did not get to a level where we needed to activate beds at Pixley,” she said.
Shortlisting process started for KwaMashu’s new hospital
She said the department had advertised 1400 posts and received more than 200 000 applications.
“Most of our adverts closed at the beginning of November. Since then, we’ve been capturing the applications on our system. In December we got the second wave of COVID-19 infections, which then affected our recruitment process. But we are continuing. The shortlisting process has started,” she said.
“So, the hospital will be opened. We were disrupted by the second wave of COVID – 19 infections, but towards the end of March, hospital staff will have been appointed and ready for the hospital to start operating.”