Hundreds of Limpopo health workers marched to the offices of the MEC for Health in Polokwane on Friday.
Among their demands are that emergency medical services staff be paid for extra hours and that staff shortages be addressed. They also want management to verify how many hours are owed to emergency staff from a 2007 dispute.
The workers are affiliated to National Public Service Workers Union (NPSWU) and the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (HOSPERSA). HOSPERSA also demanded that unroadworthy ambulances and patient transport vehicles be taken off the road.
The group marched from Landdros Mare road to the offices in College street, holding up posters while blowing whistles and singing.
But when they reached the department, the gates had been locked. “This tells us that MEC does not want to hear our concerns. We want to hand over memorandum of our demands,” said Bongani Ngwenya from HOSPERSA.
The gates were opened after union leaders agreed they would be peaceful. The department sent an official from Human Resources to get the memorandum, but leaders refused and demanded that someone in management address them. Dr Ntodeni Norah Ndwamato, a director, later came out to accept the memorandum.
While reading out their demands, Risimati Chabalala from NPSWU said, “We marched some time ago, demanding that the department should open [another] Emergency Medical Services college so that we could have trained personnel to serve communities.” Chabalala said an independent investigation was needed into the current college administration.
After signing the memorandum Dr Ndwamato promised that the department would look into their concerns and respond before 9 October.