COSATU General Secretary Solly Phetoe – Input to SAMATU NEC

Comrades Chairperson,


NEC members,

Receive our revolutionary greetings to you all on behalf of your Federation, COSATU.

It is a great pleasure to be able to address this NEC. Comrades, SAMATU is here to unite healthcare practitioners through professional and credible representation, we are proud to have you representing our health care practitioners who are at this time better in the union.

The South African health system is faced of a number of systemic challenges that are inclusive of a number of issues that are constraining to health care workers. These challenges are varying and include a shortage of staff, overcrowding and uneven ratio of patient vs health practitioner.

Health care workers are struggling to keep up with the current health care system that is strained as they continue to have extremely high workloads and often work long hours which are demanding considering the conditions of the ailing health system.

We applaud you for being resilient in being professional and continue to serve South African despite the challenges you face which at times puts you at risk and poses a threat to yourselves. It is important that we ensure that we call for continued efforts to ensure that all health care workers are able to work in a safe environment.

Comrades we must be adamant as the trade union movement that the wellbeing of health care workers is important, that the often traumatic environment that health care workers are exposed to affects them and afford health care workers the sufficient mental health support to ensure that they are able to serve the people of South Africa.

These challenges are further exacerbated by the ailing health care system which is strained by inequality and poverty, lack of resources and infrastructure as well as continued budget cuts to the health sector by National Treasury which affects access to health care for communities but also leave health care workers with insufficient means to which they are able to serve communities.  The austerity cuts that the health care system is facing must be condemned and we have to fight back as the trade union movement noting that the lack of adequate budgeting affects health care in its entirety.

The NHI Bill has been in process for a number of years with great resistance from a number of oppositions. They are trying to derail and prevent the implementation of the NHI which will be very detrimental to the health system and its functioning. As the 14th National Congress has resolved, the issue of NHI is one that we as a Federation support and will defend it to its last.

We will need to see through the implementation of NHI and need to rally behind the National Department of Health to ensure that our members and society receive the correct education on NHI and the importance of an overhaul of this two-tier health system that continues to disadvantage the people of South Africa.

The COVID-19 pandemic came at a time when the health system was not prepared, NEC Members, it was the health care workers that were able to work through the pandemic with no resources or preparedness. We applaud you once more for putting South Africans first and ensuring that lives are saved. The pandemic however, further exposed how the current health care system shows how the great disparities of our society and how important it is that we have Universal Health Care through the implementation of NHI.

There is various legislation being put in place that was achieved through NEDLAC that we need to ensure is passed into law:

–          The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Amendment Bill (OHSA) is there to protect workers and ensure that all workers are safe in their respective workplaces.

–          The Mine Health and Safety Act and Amendment Bill (MHSA) is to ensure the safety of all mine workers and give guidelines and regulations on how to injuries, accidents and diseases in mines are prevented.

–          The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) to ensure workers are compensated when they are confronted with disease and injury on duty

Leadership it is through legislation that we have been able to protect workers across sectors. It is our responsibility to sensitise our membership and ensure that members are aware of the legislation. But also, we have to form part of the amendments that take place through NEDLAC. It is critical all our affiliates avail representatives to be part of NEDLAC engagements.

We encourage you to continue being the voice of health care workers and not tire from ensuring that all those who should be part of SAMATU are recruited into our ranks so to further solidify SAMATU as the union of choice for medical doctors. It is the responsibility of SAMATU to ensure that members are serviced and represented sufficiently, that there is sensitising of members and capacity building through various educational programme including political education.

As we head to the 2024 elections let us not forget that we need to win these elections as the Alliance. It is important that we emphasise the significance of the Alliance and how we are currently able to engage directly with the ANC led government and set our demands explicitly. 2024 is a critical year and we have to rally behind the ANC to ensure that we continue to enjoy the benefits of the Alliance and a government that is biased towards the working class. We also should holds the ANC accountable in all aspects and ensure that issues of corruption and maladministration are addressed. The ANC must be an ANC that has zero tolerance on corruption and provides better service delivery to South Africans.

As I close, I want to wish you good deliberations and assure you of the support and commitment the Federation has to building a better health care system alongside its Affiliates through policy, legislation and programmes as well as strategies that will improve and reconfigure the current health care system.

Thank you very much leadership.