The lack of adequate backup security at public hospitals in the Bay over the past two days will surely have been a worry not only for staff, but also for those whose loved ones are receiving care at these facilities.
When security guards from Mafoko Security went on strike on Monday, first at Dora Nginza and later at Livingstone and Provincial, the Department of Health was quick to reassure the media and public that the situation was fully under control.
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said a team headed by the provincial head of security was “immediately” sent from Bhisho to assist the hospitals.
“There will be no security vacuum at the hospitals,” he said. But where was this team when angry guards entered Dora Nginza and threatened staff on Monday, to the extent that public order police had to be called in?
And where was it yesterday morning, when a group of psychiatric patients awaiting medical treatment at Livingstone was able to escape from the facility due to the absence of security personnel?
It is no small worry that several of these patients – all in dire need of treatment – are still on the loose.
While the situation does now appear to be under control, it is clear there was no proper contingency plan in place when the unhappy workers embarked on their strike.
A potentially volatile situation such as the one that occurred on Monday should not be playing out inside our hospitals.
Adequate security is particularly essential at Livingstone, which in the past has been the target of suspected gangsters.
These brazen men have even been known to follow their alleged victims onto the hospital grounds, firing shots and, in the process, putting innocent lives at risk.
We appreciate that the strike itself had nothing to do with the Department of Health, since it is an internal protest within Mafoko Security, which is an outside contractor.
These guards have made some serious claims about their working conditions, which one hopes will be addressed by their management as a matter of urgency.