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MBABANE – “This protest action is illegal.” The above statement was made by the ministry of health as the protest by medical laboratory technicians gained momentum yesterday, entering the second day.

Addressing the laboratory technicians, Director of Health Services, Dr Vusi Magagula, said the employees had engaged in an illegal protest action as they had not followed the right channels. Magagula said employees had a right to express grievances, but the right procedure to engage in a protest action was not followed as they had failed to approach his office to report that they had reached a deadlock with their managers. He said procedure required that they should report to his office and if they were not satisfied, proceed to the principal secretary and, ultimately, to the Ministry of Public Service.
Dr Magagula urged the employees to follow the laid down procedures, because if they failed to do so, their concerns could end up not being addressed.


“Protest actions are allowed in the country but proper channels need to be followed,” he said.
The director added that there were union representatives whom the employees could request to forward their grievances. He said the employees had abandoned work for almost two days, which was unfair to the employer and patients.

Dr Magagula mentioned that the workers failed to leave a skeleton staff to attend to patients. On the issue of being an essential service, which the laboratory technicians needed clarity on, he explained that they were an essential service. He said the hospital could not function without a laboratory.

Meanwhile, he noted that the issue of the risk allowance was still being dealt with as there were steps that needed to be followed in order for it to be recognised.
Further, he noted that on the concern regarding the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), they had challenges as they were required to order directly from the Central Medical Stores (CMS).

He clarified that the laboratory storage was a stand-alone, hence they were to stock it appropriately. Magagula also stated that since February this year, they had been trying to purchase sufficient PPE, but failed as it was in demand and very scarce on the market.

As government, he said they had followed all the steps to acquire PPE by advertising and calling for suppliers to express interest in supplying it. “Most of these suppliers promised that they will supply in five days and to date they have not,” he added.

He requested the employees to understand as it was not that government was being arrogant and wanted the workers to be infected with the coronavirus.  “We care about our employees. If everyone of you can fall sick, there is no way the hospital can operate,” he said.

Magagula said they had largely depended on the Emergence Preparedness Response (EPR) PPE stock, which proved to be insufficient. He said there were levels of the PPE which workers needed to understand. Magagula said the PPE varied, depending on the level of exposure.

In response, the laboratory technicians noted that Section 9 and 11 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act gave them powers to remove themselves if the working environment was no longer safe. They noted that due to the fact that they had no PPE, there was no way they could remain at their work stations as they would be exposing themselves.

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: Positive nurses not isolated
Is government overwhelmed or is it just pure negligence on some health personnel?