Swaziland TB Hospital workers continue strike to save their lives
05 May 2012 by Jahings Dada in Special Report 1268 Views
In what can be described as the most disappointing example of media self-censorship in Swaziland, the media has shied away from an indefinite strike at the country’s only TB hospital, situated in Moneni, a suburban area on the outskirts of Manzini. Nurses and other workers have been away from the hospital for more than a month now as they would rather go without pay than face the possibility of being infected with the deadly disease. This has resulted in the state sending in soldiers to run the hospital. The soldiers, themselves, are on the verge of a mutiny because they are as scared of the disease as the nurses.
The Moneni TB hospital is a death trap for its workers and the community around it due to the fact that it lacks facilities for protecting them from the airborne disease, in particular its more deadly variation, the Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) and Extensively Drug Resistant (XDR) TB. This is due to the fact that it does not have facilities for preventing patients from infecting nurses and doctors.
What has also not been prominently mentioned in the Swazi media is the fact that four workers from the hospital have already lost their lives due to these unsafe working conditions and many more are now ill. These deaths and illnesses are what prompted the country’s nurses and civil servants on the 4th of April to join their counterparts in a march to the country’s Ministry of Health where they delivered a petition demanding that the government to refurbish the hospital so that it is safe to its workers.
The march was organised by The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) and the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU).
The petition they delivered, as quoted in the Times of Swaziland read:
“We the employees at the TB hospital have observed with dismay the lies, deceit, and dishonesty by your office (office of the Principal Secretary in the ministry of health) in so far as addressing our plight at the TB hospital. As we speak, a number of us have perished and we don’t know how many are in line,” reads the petition in part.”
Despite making empty promises to engage the nurses in order to find a lasting solution to the situation, the government has yet to do anything concrete to solve the impasse. On the other hand, despite promises to shut down all clinics and hospitals in the country until their grievances are attended to, the nurses and other civil servants long went back to their various places of employment, leaving behind those who work at the TB hospital.
Those workers are sincerely afraid of returning to work and theirs is no longer just an act of defiance. It is a matter of staying alive. At present the Swaziland Umbutfo Defence Force (the army) and the police have been stationed there to take care of patients and they are finding it difficult to cope as they are aware of the danger they are forced to put themselves in.
The community around the hospital has been having meetings with the hospital’s management with a view of finding a way forward in terms of protecting themselves from further infections.
© 2012, Jahings Dada. All rights reserved.