Nehawu strike puts SAMHS personnel on hospital duty

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Military uniforms are again in evidence at South African hospitals and other healthcare facilities where strikes by Nehawu, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, have and are still causing chaos, including four reported patient deaths.

In response to a defenceWeb inquiry, the Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) confirmed SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) healthcare practitioners are deployed “at hospitals nationally as determined by the [National] Department of Health (DOH)”.

The unspecified number of SAMHS personnel and their musterings were not provided as asked and no date is seemingly set for the deployment – another ad-hoc one – to end.

The current deployment of military medical personnel, which started last Wednesday (8 March) is – in all probability – done under the umbrella of preserving life, health or property in emergency or humanitarian relief operations. The National Disaster Management Act of 2002 provides for deployment of SANDF personnel to “a national organ of state” to provide emergency services.

Johannesburg-based Eyewitness News reports “SANDF soldiers” were manning entry points at Thelle Mogoerane regional hospital on Gauteng’s East Rand that was hard hit by the strike. “On Monday morning, soldiers clad in camouflage and helmets were stationed at hospital entry points in a bid to restore calm,” the radio news agency said.

Nehawu is demanding a 10% salary increase and a R2 500 housing allowance for employees. Government is offering 4.7%.

The Labour Appeal Court today (Monday, 13 March) ordered Nehawu members to halt their strike.

Over the last 15 years SANDF military health personnel have been deployed on several occasions to hospitals around the country in the wake of strikes. As one example, in 2018 the SAMHS was deployed to North West’s Mafikeng to assist the provincial health department following a strike by healthcare workers.