Is the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) a union of healthcare professionals committed to its patients, or a band of hooligans? How else does one explain away the lack of compassion its leadership displays for the people its members supposedly serve — the ill, the elderly and the vulnerable?
The union brought dozens of public health facilities to a standstill on Monday as it embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike over a long-running pay dispute with the government. By midmorning, reports from around the country spoke of barricaded hospitals that could admit neither staff nor patients, and left exhausted doctors and nurses unable to return home after their night shifts.
The union’s leadership is derelict in its duty. It has elected not to bother with a strategy that would protect essential services and ensure a lifeline for vulnerable patients; nor has it brought its violent members to heel.
Its approach stands in stark contrast to that of the UK’s Royal College of Nursing, which last December embarked on its first strike in more than 100 years, implementing a carefully devised plan to protect vulnerable patients and core services. In doing so, they kept public sentiment on the side of their cause.
It would be a mistake to point fingers solely at Nehawu. The government clearly has no appetite to rein in a political ally, nor does it seem interested in ensuring hospitals and clinics are provided with the security they need to prevent the havoc wrought by Nehawu.
While union members are entitled to strike, forcing patients to risk their lives in this way is simply unforgivable. It is no longer a strike, but a hostage negotiation. The state should protect patients, stare Nehawu down and prosecute the offenders.
Source : Business Day