Ambulance strike averted

Khayelitsha ambulance staff downed tools on Saturday May 2 demanding proper protective personal equipment.

Emergency Medical Service workers at the Khayelitsha base have ended their unprotected strike after they downed tools over the weekend demanding that their employers provide them with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to help them safely fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The workers complained that the plastic apron, N95 mask and gloves they had been given were not sufficient to protect them, and that they should have been given A40 suits, aprons, head coverings, masks, face shields and shoe covers.

Emergency Medical Services and Forensic Pathology Services communication officers, Deanna Bessick, said the strike came to an end after discussions between the PSA and NEHAWU labour leadership which were facilitated by the department’s head of corporate services.

“The result is that the staff have agreed to resume their duties and to work according to the Western Cape Government Health PPE guidelines,” she said.

“In addition (to this) the department has put in place measures that would address the concerns raised by the workers around the use of the A40 suits,” she said.

When Vukani arrived at the hospital premises last Saturday, the workers had all gathered next to locked ambulances.

Shortly afterward, a manager arrived at the base, instructing anyone who was willing to work to collect their PPEs and start their shifts.

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Vukani and other media were instructed to leave before he continued addressing the staff.

Intermediate Life Support practitioner, Charlotte Clarke, said the proper protective equipment was virtually non-existent at their workplace but the management expect them to serve the community.

Ms Clarke said when they raised their concerns with management they had been told that if they were not willing work they wouldn’t receive their full salaries.

Ms Clarke said some of her colleagues had transported patients who had been confirmed or suspected of being Covid-19 positive, without having the proper protective gear.

“When we are infected, we become a real danger of infecting everyone else around us, patients, hospital staff, and a risk to our own families. Not a single person in our work place has been tested for the coronavirus and yet we are dealing with patients that have tested positive.

“I might have it but because I was not tested and I don’t know that – and I might have infected my colleagues and family.

“We are willing to work but we want proper equipment so that we can perform our duties. We are human beings, we are also concerned about health and we are not immune to the disease.

“The few proper kits that we have is donated to us and we requested the donation ourselves not the management. We have done a little research and found a supply that could supply the department until whenever the coronavirus is defeated, at reasonable price,” she said.

Her colleague, Siyabulela Tshaka, said while the media was reporting that everything was in place, few had any idea what was really happening on the ground.