Home / News / News archive / 2010 / August 2010 / Newborn dies amid South Africa strike chaos

Newborn dies amid South Africa strike chaos

A baby died yesterday while he was being rushed from a clinic shut down by South Africa's public sector workers strike at hospitals, schools and courts across the country.

The baby's mother was having complications in labour when she went into a rural clinic on the second day of the strike and found no nurses or doctors.

She was then rushed to another clinic in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, by ambulance, but she gave birth, before they could get there.

Health department spokesman Mpho Gabane, blamed the baby's death on the strike."We say outright this is related to the strike because had she been attended to earlier the child could have been saved," Mr Gabane told The Associated Press news service.

The unions are demanding an 8.6 per cent pay rise − more than twice the rate of inflation – as well as a monthly housing allowance of 1,000 rands or about £88. The government's latest offer is a seven per cent increase and a 700 rands housing allowance. More than a million public sector workers joined the strike which started on Wednesday and late yesterday afternoon started to turn nasty as police began firing rubber bullets at striking teachers and healthcare workers.

Like police and immigration agents, health care workers are classed as essential service providers and are not allowed to strike.

In Durban, the country’s biggest city, health officials called in the army to help as nurses joined the strike. But a spokeswoman at Durban's 922-bed King Edward VIII Hospital said doctors were still working. Medics were feeding patients, wheeling them to their beds and even cleaning the hospital, said  spokeswoman Nonto Beko.

"We basically do not have anyone in the hospital except the doctors and the nurses from the army. People are all out striking," Beko told Agence France Presse news service.

"We are in the process of getting private cleaners to clean the hospital because the doctors have been basically doing everything."

Cape Town’s Anglican archbishop, Thabo Makgoba, yesterday called for the government and workers to come together and end the strike quickly, saying people were suffering. Mr Makgoba also called for hospital staff and other essential workers to go back to work straight away.

"How do we look at our society and say, 'let not your hearts be troubled,' when patients needing high levels of care are without proper nursing staff and students are told they must provide for their own education?" the archbishop said in a statement.

Hayley attribution