SA union says Zimbabweans not to blame for Limpopo health system problems, wants ranting MEC to apologise

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SOUTH Africa’s National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) says the problems the Limpopo public health system faces can’t be blamed on Zimbabweans seeking treatment in the province.

The union said the whole provincial health department system needed an overhaul and healthcare workers should be placed at the front.

At the same time, trade union Hospersa has called on Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba to apologise for her treatment of a woman she identified as Zimbabwean because the woman spoke Shona.

Ramathuba has this week received criticism for telling the patient at a Bela Bela hospital that South Africa is not running a charity organisation.

She said Zimbabwean patients are not factored in the provincial health department.

Ramathuba has defended her comments.

But Nehawu says the problems in the province are bigger than foreign nationals.

The union’s provincial secretary Moses Maubane said: “We can’t attach the challenges to the people of Zimbabwe. Let’s rather say the system needs to be overhauled. We need to change the system. They [Zimbabweans] do have the right to be taken care of when sick.”

According to the health department, foreign nationals qualify for free primary healthcare. If they need other services, they have to pay.


Maubane said “talking” was not enough to fix issues in the health system.

“You need a happy staff, and this is not what healthcare workers are getting now. The department still owes them PMDS [Performance Management and Development System], grade progression and many incentives and benefits that motivate staff.

“Apart from that,  there is a dire shortage of personnel in the department. Combined, if all those areas are addressed, it is our belief that you will boost the morale of the staff.”

He said if the department had enough healthcare workers, the system “would not be burdened”.

“If we had enough personnel, we would be able to cover everyone.”

The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) has also called on Ramathuba to apologise.

The union’s Limpopo chairperson Bongani Ngwenya said:

The union notes the MEC’s views on the severity of the problem but also cautions against the stripping of a patient’s dignity, regardless of [their] nationality and status in the country. Hospersa will engage the MEC’s office to find solutions to this complex problem which cuts across patients’ rights to healthcare services and the available resources in the province.

The Limpopo government said it would not be taking any action against Ramathuba.

The ANC in the province has come out in full support of her statements. The Limpopo executive committee spokesperson Jimmy Machaka said: “The ANC in Limpopo align themselves fully with the sentiments and comments made by Phophi Ramathuba. We have appreciated the burden that has been encroached by illegal foreigners on the health systems in Limpopo.”

Machaka said people should not “sensationalise” the issue.

“We don’t have a problem with foreigner nationals coming to Limpopo or the country. However, they must be duly documented.”

Meanwhile, the national health department has instructed officials to gather information on the incident.