Health-e (Cape Town)

11 February 2014

South Africa: Tshwane Support Workers Go Unpaid

Many Tshwane health care workers have gone up to five months without payment from the Gauteng Department of Health and are battling to put food on the table and pay school fees.

In October, lay health care workers including counsellors, peer educators and home-based care workers signed agreements with the Gauteng Department of Health.

As part of these agreements, the province undertook to take over the payment of workers' R2,500 monthly stipend from many non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Now many are saying that they have not been paid or have been paid incorrectly for months despite promises made by the department in November 2013 that it was urgently working to resolve the problem.

As of late last week, the department has cited problems with health workers' banking details for the delay and said it was aware of 450 community health workers who could not be paid because of inaccurate bank details and closed bank accounts, according to Gauteng Department of Health Spokesperson Simon Zwane.

By mid-last week, Zwane said the department had paid stipends to 8,173 lay health workers and as instituted an internal audit to determine if the health workers currently on its database are legitimate and have been paid correctly, he said. The department also issued thousands of payments late last week and says the delay will be rectified in full by the end of the week.

"Payments were released on Thursday and Friday last week for more than 4,000 community health workers," Zwane said. "A further 4,194 community health workers will be paid on Thursday, 11th February (and) this will bring payments up to date."

At Eersterust's Vukani Community Development Centre, health workers say they have resubmitted their identity documents and bank details twice since November.

Although 23 health workers at the centre had not been paid, they had continued to come to work until Monday when they went on strike.

One of these workers is Mathapelo Mokwoena, who is the sole breadwinner in her family.

She has not been able to buy school uniforms for her daughters. Dorah Maluleke from Mamelodi's Thembelitsha Support Group is a mother of four and says she is struggling to buy food in the wake of payment delays.

Although they have a passion for their work, some of Mokwoena's colleagues said they are already looking for new employment.

"I like what I am doing here butm because I haven't been paid, I will have to leave this job I like for another that will pay me," health worker Petrus Makabole told OurHealth.

While some payments have been made, health workers allege that some of these payments have been incorrect, with some receiving R100 less than their promised wage.

Meanwhile, Vukani Community Development caregiver Hendrick Molekwa said that with each new day, comes new hopes that are dashed.

"We were promised we'd be paid by the 14 January, but we queue at the ATM and still there's nothing," Molekwa told OurHealth.

Additional reporting by Laura Lopez Gonzalez

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