Health authorities said that 31 operations were cancelled and only 19 were performed as Nehawu members embarked on a violent protest over unpaid bonusses. Services resumed at the hospital on Friday after workers returned to work.
Rubbish bins were strewn all over the hospital as the striking healthcare workers burnt tyres and thrashed the hospital.
National health minister Aaron Motsoaledi described their actions as “pure hooliganism” saying that workers “went to the theatre and took the mask and took the mask and covered their faces.”
Nehawu’s Lulamile Sibanda said an internal investigation would be initiated to verify claims of violence.
“We are aware that our members closed the hospital, but we have no evidence of a situation where members are alleged to have disrupted services inside including the theatre where operations were meant to take place. The union has no knowledge of disruptions including doctors not being allowed to operate. These remain unproven allegations,” he said.
Sibanda said the accusations levelled against their members were unfair.
“The employers can’t rely on emotional blackmailing workers and want to pit workers and the working class over an issue which management is supposed to take responsibility for. When the minister referred to our members as hooligans, he failed to refer to managers who are involved in maladministration who take money for bonusses for corrupt activities,” he said.
Nehawu members actions have been heavily criticised for their actions.
The South African Human Rights Commission said such violence was concerning as it infringed on the rights of workers.
“The Commission urges all protestors to desist from infringing on the rights of patients in need of healthcare. Through denying access to the facility and the damage of equipment in violent protests, not only are people’s rights to healthcare affected, in the short-term, but the accompanying damage to valuable lifesaving healthcare infrastructure will also have long-term effects on the right to access to healthcare services,” SAHRC spokesperson Gail Smith said.
Workers are demanding outstanding bonusses for the 2016/17 financial bonus.
While negotiations between the union and the provincial health department over the bonusses were ongoing, Sibanda said that “we would have no option but to mobilise our members for a full-blown strike.