Nurses’ union calls for resolution in KZN mortuary strike

Judge warned workers at the Fort Napier Medico Legal Mortuary in Pietermaritzburg to return to work or risk re-arrest. Workers say conditions at the mortuary (pictured above) are poor. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane (archive from 20 November)

Judge warned workers at the Fort Napier Medico Legal Mortuary in Pietermaritzburg to return to work or risk re-arrest. Workers say conditions at the mortuary (pictured above) are poor. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane (archive from 20 November)

Mortuary shelves have filled up and ‘bodies are being dropped on the floor or on top of each other’, while workers’ demands are going nowhere.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in KwaZulu-Natal today called on the provincial department of health to speedily resolve the issue of employees working in mortuaries in various facilities, saying it was now compromising the work of nurses as well.

Staff at provincial government mortuaries have embarked on a go-slow two weeks ago as they are protesting “unbearable” working conditions such as broken air-conditioners, broken toilets, old uniforms and lack of cleaning equipment.

Bodies are piling up in provincial mortuaries as workers performed an average of two autopsies a day.

Provincial member of the executive council (MEC) for Health, Dr Sinongiseni Dhlomo, was even forced to take matters into his own hands and donned his surgical gloves and performed two autopsies as the forensic pathology services ground to a halt after staff at the Fort Napier Medico-Legal Mortuary in Pietermaritzburg.

In a statement, Denosa provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said they believed the workers have a valid reason to embark on the protest, saying that it cannot be fair that they work in pathology as specialists and yet are still paid salaries of being general workers.

“When a patient has demised, the nurse responsible for his/her care must ensure that all details of the patient’s whereabouts in the mortuary are such that they can account to patient’s families. But because corpses are not being attended to, the shelves have filled up to such that bodies are dropped on the floor by workers and, in many instances, on top of each other,” Shabangu said.

“Now nurses cannot say where the body is located, because ordinarily you will record the shelve number. Now patient’s families won’t be able to easily see their relative’s bodies as well. Corpses may get missing, and our members will face charges that they shouldn’t be facing had all the issues that the workers are complaining about been sorted by the department.”

Denosa also called on the department to address the matter as a matter of urgency, saying that its leadership in the province was due to meet with the representatives of the national department of health in Pretoria on Monday over the matter.

Meanwhile, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in KZN has demanded that Dhlomo should present a detailed strike contingency plan to avert the ongoing strike by forensic pathology services while also calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene.

African News Agency (ANA)

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