HAITU demands that security contracts should be terminated

HAITU demands that security contracts should be terminated because they are being used to loot from the Gauteng Health Department.

The Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union (HAITU) has noted the remarks made by the Gauteng Health MEC, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, over the exorbitant cost for security contracts, to guard public hospitals in Gauteng. A whopping R59 million is being spent per month on security to guard public health care facilities. The MEC also confirmed that the contracts are rolled over irregularly as there is no permanent contract in place. This is why HAITU has been demanding that all security workers must be insourced and employed permanently, because these contracts are used as a way to loot from the Gauteng Health Department.

The issue of security guards is a big issue and the lack of permanent, stable security contributes to the high incidents of crime in our clinics and healthcare facilities. This is why HAITU marched to the department on Monday to demand the termination of these contracts, so that workers can be insourced and employed permanently. It is a well- known fact that many of our public health institutions are not safe. At Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital, for example, health workers have experienced theft and vandalism of their cars in the parking lot, whilst they are on duty.

At the same time, there are numerous reports of health workers being stabbed or assaulted whilst on shift. The most recent report was that of a nurse who was stabbed on duty at Helen Joseph Hospital. A security company which operates on a month to month contract does not have the commitment or the capacity to root out crime. Often the workers employed by these companies are not properly trained or equipped to deal with crime, and they are not qualified or properly trained. There is no proper vetting system in place to ensure that those employed to do this work are qualified for it. Most of them do not have armed response back up, they do not have tazers or even batons to ensure that they can secure the facility.

Just because a person is guarding the door does not mean they have the ability to keep the public and vulnerable patients safe. The situation is made worse by the fact that the majority of health care workers are female and they are always exposed to possible acts of violence. We have clinics located in squatter camps and informal settlements where the crime rate is extremely high and in some cases, the facility is running on a 24-hour basis. We often hear horror stories of how these workers are assaulted and attacked on daily basis and the employee has no recourse to deal with the acts of intimidation, violence and threats which nurses are exposed to on a daily basis.

Since 2016, the security contract has been running on a month to month basis. The tender for long term security services has gone out twice but there have been irregularities with that process as well. These irregularities are as a result of corruption within the Gauteng Health department. Some of the officials are implicated in cartels that have promised security companies big contracts, because they benefit through kick-backs. The fact that these contracts are worth R59 million per month, is the real reason why security workers are not being insourced at the GDoH.

There is no political will to employ workers permanently because it means that some of these officials will no longer be able to loot from the department dodgy tenders. This money goes straight into their pockets. At the same time, there are high incidents of sabotage at healthcare facilities. An internal report suggested that the fire which occurred at Charlotte Maxeke in April 2021 was no accident, it was arson.

HAITU wants to know how is it possible that GDoH is spending so much on security and yet, the hospital was set on fire. There have also been incidents of machinery and equipment being stolen from healthcare facilities and it seems clear that these incidents are not isolated. These corrupt officials are operating a very well-organized syndicate to dilapidate the healthcare system.

We are not oblivious to the fact that there must be a thorough plan to phase in insourcing, but the fact remains, that the persistent renewal of short term security contracts is a source of looting for the Gauteng Department of Health.

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