The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] welcomes the report issued by the Health Ombudsman on the dilapidated state of the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province.

The South African public health system has been known for the pervasive non-compliance with the relevant health and safety regulations and clinical protocols, which are key in the protection of healthcare workers. It is on these basis, that our National Office Bearers undertook a programme of site-visits in the health districts at the peak of COVID-19 in 2020, to concretely verify and ascertain the information at our disposal on the non-adherence to the norms and standards of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As NEHAWU, we produced a fact-finding report based on the information that we had obtained during the program of site-visits in various healthcare facilities. The findings detailed how government had not adequately responded as per the norms and standards of the WHO in the fight against the Coronavirus and this was coupled with the lack of adequate provision of PPEs, lack of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, shortage of staff, appalling infrastructure, poor management system, dysfunctional district health system and poor adherence to the National Core Standards.

Equally, coupled with these findings contained in our fact-finding report, the government has been complacent in implementing the Human Resources Strategy for the Health Sector: 2030, adopted in 2020 which seeks to address the dire shortage of healthcare personnel. The strategy sets out strategic targets on employing an additional 97 000-health workers, with CHWs comprising around one third that would be required by 2025. At this current rate, indications are that the target won’t be achieved due to austerity measures of the Treasury which have significantly curtailed budget allocations in healthcare.

As NEHAWU, we reiterate our long held assertion that healthcare workers play a critical role in achieving a well-functioning healthcare system that is able to effectively provide quality healthcare services. Currently there is a disparity in the distribution and investment on healthcare workers between the public and private healthcare sector and also between urban and rural areas. This has perpetuated the lack of quality healthcare services that is delivered in the public healthcare sector and in rural settings. Furthermore this has put public health at severe financial risks due to medical negligence.

The NDOH is already an abject failure when measured against its own yardstick – in terms of the targets set in the 2019-2024 Medium Term Strategic Framework. Apart from the fact that the department has failed to establish the NHI Fund by December 2020 and in ensuring that the fund starts purchasing services by 2022/23, the actual clinical and operational conditions of the public health institutions are still woeful. For instance:

  • The National Quality Improvement Programme is supposed to have covered about 80% of the health institutions and ready to be accredited for the NHI by 2022/23. So far, only about 100 public health clinics and 80 hospitals have implemented the National Quality Improvement Programme.
  • Only about 1 928 Primary Health Care facilities, out of 3 035 qualify as Ideal Clinics.

Hence, the department is facing a contingent liability of R70 billion from medico-legal claims engendered by malpractices in health institutions. 

It against this backdrop that the national union launched the Public Service Delivery Campaign in February 2023 and embarked on the national public service strike action to address, over and above the wage dispute. The objectives of the Public Service Delivery Campaign are geared towards an improvement in pay and working conditions in order to retain skilled and experienced personnel and improve the morale of the public servants, as a prerequisite for effective service delivery, eradication of rampant corruption and widespread outsourcing of the state’s responsibilities and functions.

As NEHAWU, we have on numerous occasions called on the government to urgently attend to the collapsing Public Healthcare System, however our calls have fallen on deaf ears. We are vindicated by the Health Ombudsman’s report. It must be noted that Rahima Moosa Hospital situation is not the only one, we have numerous healthcare facilities across the country with similar situations such as Zithulele, Uitenhage Hospital, Livingstone Hospital, Mthatha Hospital, Sulenkama Hospital, Nessie Knight Hospital, Free State Psychiatric, Kopanong Hospital, Tambo Memorial, RK Khan, King Edward, Prince Mshiyeni, Harry Gwala Memorial, Osindisweni and Addington Hospitals, Zebediela Hospital, Tshilidzini Hospital, Witbank Hospital, Carolina Hospital, Elsie Ballot, General Delarey, Geluckspan, Taung, Joe Morolong Hospital, Tshwaragano Hospital, Nelspoort Hospital and Sandshills Hospitals.

This report is yet another wakeup call on government and in particular the NDOH led by Dr. Joe Phaahla as well as the Gauteng Department of Health, following the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Unfortunately, we may yet bear witness to still more tragedies given the fact that the Gauteng Finance MEC has recently announced a massive R300 million cut in the province’s spending on health infrastructure. It is the responsibility of the government to create safe and healthy working conditions for our members and to provide quality healthcare services to the public instead of scapegoating healthcare workers.

In the context of our Public Service Delivery Campaign focusing on Health, we hereby extend an invite to the Minister of Health, Dr. Joe Phaala [Minister No Work No Pay] and the Deputy Minister, Dr. Sbongiseni Dhlomo [Barbarism] to join our campaign in order to have a firsthand experience on the barbaric treatment that our members, workers and patients are subjected in the health institutions.

Lastly, the union will be intensifying its campaign for safe working conditions and improved healthcare services in both the public and private healthcare sector. Where we find that the situation is threatening the safety of our members and workers, we will follow due process which include legal action to ensure compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. 


Issued by NEHAWU SecretariatZola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: