More than 900 men and women from the South African Military Health Service have been deployed to 34 hospitals across the country to assist with patients during the public service strike.
Medical teams have been deployed in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, the Free State and the North West.
Head of communication of the Department of Defence, Siphiwe Dlamini said the men and women included doctors, nurses and emergency health care practitioners. He said they had also deployed personnel to assist with the cleaning of hospitals.
Unions want an 8.6% salary increase and a R1000 a month housing allowance. But the government says it already has to find an extra R5 billion to pay for its revised offer of a 7% salary increase and a R700 monthly housing allowance.
Public sector strikes in SA tend to be violent and it is not the first time the military has been deployed to public hospitals to maintain basic services and prevent victimisation twice in three years. In June-July 2007, the SAMHS deployed about 2500 personnel to over 80 hospitals in all nine provinces during a bitter nurses’ strike. The effort, dubbed Operation Human/Bata, received great public acclaim at the time. In June-July last year, the SAMHS deployed over 500 medics as part of Operation Human/Bata 2 in KZN, Gauteng, the Free State, the North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Among the hospitals affected are Natalspruit, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Kalafong, George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Tshwane District, Mamelodi and Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospitals. In KwaZulu-Natal, the teams have been deployed in King Edward VIII, Mahatma Ghandi Memorial, Prince Mshiyeni and Stanger Hospitals, in Gauteng.
In North West, teams have been deployed in Brits, Bophelong, Vryburg and North West Hospitals, whilst in Limpopo the teams are in Dora Nzinga and Livingstone Hospitals. The teams have also been deployed in Van Velden, Polokwane, Lebowakgomo, Maphutha-Malatji and St Rita’s Hospitals in Limpopo. In Free State, they have been deployed in Bongane, Katlego and Pelonomi Hospitals.
In Mpumalanga, the teams have been dispatched in Witbank, Tonga, KwaMhlanga, Mapulaneng, Rob Fereira, Ermelo and Themba Hospitals, BuaNews reports.
The military says in a statement the SANDF has been instructed to render support to any government department that may require assistance during the public service strike.