A shortage of labour relations officers has been blamed for the long delay in disciplining workers who trashed the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital in May last year.
This is according to Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in an oral reply to my questions earlier this week in the Gauteng Legislature.
He said that a team of five working on this case had been diverted to attend to matters at the Thelle Mogoerane Hospital, and a new five-person investigation team has now been appointed with a deadline of 30 September this year.
I am relieved that action against the 16 workers identified by CCTV cameras is finally being taken, but I am concerned that they were not suspended or moved elsewhere as many of them were identified as having threatened other staff.
Criminal cases have been opened for public disturbance/violence, and malicious damage to property, but there have been no arrests as police are still investigating.
There was public outrage at the time over the scenes of trash in the hospital corridors and horror tales of doctors and nurses locking themselves in wards for safety.
Rocks were used to disrupt ambulances transporting patients, and tyres were burnt in front of the hospital. These violent actions were by workers complaining about unpaid bonuses.
Former Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said it was “pure hooliganism” and that anyone who tried to stop staff doing their duties was a “murderer”.
The then Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said it was “another Life Esidimeni unfolding.”
I hope that the disciplinary cases go ahead soon and that those found guilty are also made to pay for the R3 million damage to the hospital.
People will feel free to trash the hospital again if there is no accountability and consequences for bad behaviour.