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Joe Phaahla Claims Lives Have Been Lost During Intensifying Nehawu Strike

The Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla, said the unprotected strike by the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union (Newahu) that intensified across the country on Wednesday had led to the loss of lives.

He was speaking at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg late on Wednesday night.

The Gauteng Department of Health said there was a complete shutdown of operations when striking workers went inside hospital wards to order working staff to stop their duties on Wednesday.

Emergency medical services in the province had also been threatened and are understood to have been unable to respond to all emergency calls, further being denied access in and out of facilities.

As a result, the provincial health department obtained an interim interdict overnight preventing the disruption of medical service in Gauteng.

“The interim interdict is applicable with immediate effect and prevents striking workers from doing anything that directly or indirectly obstructs or impeaches access to and from health facilities across the Gauteng province or even from damaging any departmental property,” said provincial health department spokesperson Motalatale Modiba.

Phaahla said security at hospitals would be increased and the interim court interdicts should go some way in allaying the fears of people across the country worried about not receiving medical care.

“So, we are hoping for better enforcement of the rule of law especially with the assistance of the courts.”

The minister said military health services personnel would assist at facilities where needed.

“The most important support is security. That’s why the steps that have been taken are to make sure that staff are secure over and above the court orders, making sure that they [the court] can be enforced.”

Disgruntled public servants have been on strike on since Monday, calling for a 10% wage increase, but the government is offered a 4.7% increase.