Nehawu could be held liable for patients’ deaths during strike – legal analyst

Nehawu could be held liable for patients’ deaths during strike – legal analyst

Legal analyst and attorney Nthabiseng Dubazana says trade union Nehawu could be held liable for the deaths of patients during the public sector strike.

Nehawu could be held liable for patients’ deaths during strike – legal analyst

Thousands of Nehawu members downed tools last week in a strike which has been marred by severe disruptions to healthcare services at clinics and hospitals around the country.

Workers are demanding a 10% wage hike while the government has so far only put an offer of 4.7% on the table. 

Health Minister Joe Phaahla has been quick to place the blame for some patients’ death at the door of the union, saying their actions prevented people from receiving the necessary treatment.  

Dubazana says any strike involving the public sector needs to follow certain guidelines.  

“When it comes to any strike, especially one that involves the public sector, you need to make an application for that strike so that it is not unlawful, and you need to give parameters on how the strike will be conducted. With regards to essential services, this means if 80% of staff will be striking, the 20% needs to be available to take care of patients.”   

On Monday, the Labour Appeals Court interdicted the strike with immediate effect.

The National Health Department welcomed the court ruling.  

“We believe this judgement will bring some form of stability in health facilities across the country. This is a victory for the innocent, vulnerable and un-unionised patients who have suffered the consequences of the disruptive and violent strike action,” said the department’s Foster Mohale. 

Earlier on Monday, members of the South African National Defence Force manned entry points at the Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital while Minister of Health Joe Phaahla visited the facility.  

“We are calling for a peaceful and non-violent strike to allow non-striking healthcare workers to exercise their right to work without being intimidated or victimised,” said Phaahla. 

Dubazana says Nehawu could be held liable for deaths if there was no skeleton staff available to attend to patients at various hospitals.   

“If Nehawu covered itself by applying legally for the strike to take place and making sure that there was available skeleton staff to attend to patients, they won’t be held liable for the alleged deaths that occurred during the strike.

“If the rules were not adhered to and everyone was striking and patients were neglected then Nehawu could be held liable, because the people that were striking, were doing so under the union and not on personal capacity.”


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