‘We are unclear about our future’

The future of Philippi health care workers employed by the South African Christian Leadership Association (SACLA) is uncertain following allegations that the organisation is closing its offices in the area.

The workers said they were informed by the management that the non-profit organisation had not received funding from the Department of Health for this financial year.

They claim that a new organisation has been appointed, but the details of how the new organisation is going to work have not been revealed to them.

Co-ordinator of National Union of Care Workers of South Africa, Ayanda Nabe, told Vukani that the workers were called to a meeting and were informed that the organisation was no longer going to operate as they did not have funding.

Ms Nabe said the workers also complained that when they were given contracts they had not been allowed to take them home to peruse the details or seek advice where necessary.

“Sometimes the workers are not given gloves when they have to assess the conditions of their patients.

“At times the workers get blind referrals whereby they are not fully informed about the diseases the patients have,” she said.

Ms Nabe said the workers sometimes work in high risk areas but safety concerns are not always taken seriously.

She said according to labour laws, anyone who works on contract for more than six months was eligible to be employed permanently, but this had not happened.

She also claimed that the workers were not allowed to take maternity leave and that, considering the kind of work they were expected to do, the workers were being underpaid.

A 28-year-old single mother of two who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, confirmed to Vukani that they had been relieved of their duties by SACLA and told to return their uniforms.

She said at the beginning of April each year they would sign a new contract, but this year that did not happen.

She added that workers had decided to approach the Department of Health to ask what will happen to them when SACLA closes and the department promised them that they wouldbe employed by a new organisation.

“The department has told us to continue working and we are unclear about our future as we speak. We don’t know what will happen and we are just doing as we are told because we hope that the department is going to employ us. My children are dependent on me and no ones provides for my family besides me,” she said.

Department of Health spokesperson Monique Johnstone told Vukani the Department of Health and SACLA had held two meetings to inform workers that two new NPOs had been appointed to take over the services as well as to inform the workers that they would have to sign new contracts with the new NPOs which had been awarded the funding to run the healthcare services in the area. Ms Johnstone said that the workers are contract workers and receive a s stipend in line with their contract agreement.

“SACLA was contacted in 2015/2016 to offer health care services in the Western Cape government health department for two projects which legally ended on March 31.

“NPOs were then advised to apply for funding for the2016/ 2017 financial year, of which SACLA was once again successful for funding a project.

“But this time SACLA will be funded for smaller projects due increased number of NPOs,” she said.

Ms Johnstone added that SACLA’s management and board members had been informed about this on Thursday April 14, and that the community health care workers will be retained in their jobs, but will, however, be transferred to the two new NPOs which had been awarded the contracts of Philippi area for the new financial year.

“NPOs will continue working in Philippi as per the one-year contracts awarded to the employing NPO, but there is no guarantee that NPOs will be funded on an ongoing basis, and funding is dependent on the performance of the NPO as well as the availability of funds from the department.”Vukani’s attempts to get comment from SACLA were unsuccessful.