The strike at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) entered its third day on Friday as unions and employers tried to resolve the impasse‚ which has seen clinics turning away patients needing tests.
Members of the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) downed tools on Wednesday following a deadlock in the wage talks with NHLS.
The unions met the employer on Friday morning in an effort to end the strike‚ which has affected the provision of laboratory testing services for the majority of the population.
NHLS provides laboratory and related public health services to over 80% of the population through a national network of laboratories.
Democratic Alliance Gauteng health spokesman Jack Bloom said on Friday thousands of patients at clinics were being asked to come back later for tests as the strike entered its third day.
Bloom said acting NHLS head Prof Shabir Madhi had informed the heads of provincial health departments that the NHLS would outsource “essential tests” to private laboratories and bill them the NHLS tariffs for those tests.
“But no tests at all will be outsourced for primary health care facilities. This means that basic tests typically requested by clinics will only be done after the strike – this includes tests for TB‚ HIV‚ CD4 counts‚ Pap smears‚ Sexually Transmitted Infections‚ Haemoglobin‚ Full Blood Count‚ urea and electrolytes‚ and Prostate Specific Antigen‚” Bloom said.
He said the problem was that a number of patients would not come back for these tests‚ which are essential for diagnosis at the primary care level.
Nehawu spokesman Khaya Xaba expressed confidence that Friday’s meeting would yield positive results.
PSA deputy general manager Tahir Maepa said the meeting held with management on Thursday did not bear any fruit‚ necessitating the Friday meeting.
“The annual wage increase is still at 7.3% but we are still negotiating on other conditions‚” Maepa said.
Apart from the 7.3% salary increase‚ other demands include a housing allowance of R2000 per month and a shift allowance of R50‚ or 45% of their hourly rate – whichever is the greater.
Source: TMG Digital.