Hospital Workers Unhappy With Conditions

ABOUT 200 workers at Katutura State Hospital in Windhoek went on strike over a pay dispute yesterday.

The group, which included kitchen staff, laundry workers, cleaners and ward assistants held a peaceful demonstration in front of the acting senior medical superintendent Nelago Amagulu’s office.

Although Amagulu locked herself in her office at the start of the protest, the demonstrators stayed put until she came out to respond to their demands.

The cleaners complained about poor working conditions, claiming they were overworked and underpaid.

They also claimed that they have not been paid their overtime for the last four months, and were only informed at the beginning of this month that payment of overtime had been scraped.

One of the demonstrators, Melani Antonius, said she has been working for the hospital for more than 21 years, and like the rest of the workers confirmed the non-payment of overtime.

“Apart from refusing to pay us overtime, we are also not given days off. We work seven days in a week,” she said, adding that this was not the case in the past.

The cleaners, among other things, also complained about the discrepancy in salaries claiming that those who have worked for 10 years received a N$4 000-N$5 000 experience payment while those who had worked for the institution for 20 years were paid N$2 000. The workers expected this amount to be proportionate with the number of years each worker had served the hospital.

“We are overworked because the hospital is very much understaffed. Five of us are on duty at any given time – one in the maternity ward, two at the casualty department and another two on the upper floor. This is not fair as a lot of people who come in with causalities are bleeding and the floor constantly needs to be mopped,” said a cleaner, who did not want to be named.

Laimi Hailonga complained about a backache, she said resulted from what she calls bad working conditions.

“I broke my back while on duty and now I can hardly do anything. I have been to several screenings but they all cannot figure out my problem,” she said.

Hailonga, who has worked at the hospital for 15 years, pleaded that she should be sent on early retirement or be transferred to her home in Omuthiya in Oshikoto Region, where she could receive help with other chores.

Amagulu could not comment yesterday because she was said to be in a management meeting all day and with the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) at the time of going to print.

Katutura State Hospital is one of the busiest hospitals in the country, but has regularly come under fire for various problems, including regular water shortages.

Source : The Namibian