The department of health building in Struben Street in the Pretoria CBD suffered another blow this week.
Carpets and documents were damaged as ceilings collapsed in the persistent rains of the last week, reports Pretoria East Rekord.
The damage has caused the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) much displeasure as the government had been spending “millions” to revamp the “ailing” Civitas building.
“We have noted with disbelief that the government, which needs a lot of money to implement NHI, will continue to waste money on this ailing building,” said national health department Nehawu chairperson Lusizo Ratya.
Ratya said millions had been spent on waterproofing, replacing ceilings, and painting of cracked and leaking walls.
“[Yet] the flooding and water dripping from the ceiling and walls on the rainy days still pose a serious threat to employees,” he said.
He said Nehawu complained about problems such as the ceilings and walls, but they were still not fixed.
“There is still no air extraction and ventilation; instead we have a malfunctioning air-conditioning system, fire detection system and sprinklers, emergency exit doors and no fire marshals,” said Ratya.
He claimed that the department was also playing “delaying tactics” on relocating staff to an alternative building.
“We are not going to back down as we refuse to be part of wasteful expenditure. We are told that we are currently renting Civitas for a space that is three times bigger than the office space needed for the department (about 32,000 square metres).”
Ratya said employees demanded that the department conclude the procurement process and award the suitable and occupational health and safety (OHS) compliant building to the department without further delays.
“We also expect the employer to work with organised labour in ensuring that there are interim arrangements for all employees to contribute towards service delivery while waiting for the relocation process to conclude.”
The latest salvo in the war between the health department and the union comes as around R79.4 million was being spent to renovate the “unsafe” building.
The decision to renovate came after a stand-off spanning months between the department and its employees over alleged poor conditions at the building.
Department of public works and infrastructure spokesperson Thami Mchunu previously said: “The scope of the work includes refurbishment of the waterproofing and skylight, mechanical, electrical and general building works.”
Renovations are set to be completed in April 2020 despite a recent decision to move the health department’s employees to a different building.
The public works department said it was, however, unable to find suitable alternative accommodation.
Department of health spokesperson Popo Maja also stressed that the department of public works had to account for the flooding, solely, as all contractors were appointed, managed, and paid by them.
“The property belongs to public works. We have not spent any money in the renovation of Civitas,” he said.
Maja said the labour impasse remained a concern to the department.