Warning for hospital clerk after row over lunch break

Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital
Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital

A hospital clerk who lashed out at an anxious mother for interrupting her lunch break has received a written warning following a disciplinary hearing, Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said at the weekend.

Elmarie van der Merwe, 51, alleged that on April 4 she and several other patients had been waiting outside the door of the admissions office at Provincial Hospital in Port Elizabeth.

The door was reportedly closed from before 12.45pm to well after 2pm.

According to hospital rules, the admissions office should not be closed unless there is nobody to replace the clerk on duty when she takes a lunch break.

Lunch breaks are also supposed to be only 30 minutes long.

After 2pm, and while specialists were waiting at the ward to see her foster son, Van der Merwe said she had knocked on the door, opened it and had been met by three clerks eating lunch.

The admissions clerk is alleged to have reacted in anger and verbally abused her.

Van der Merwe also alleged that the clerk had pushed aside her four-year-old son, a heart patient, when she tried to lock her office door.
Last week, Kupelo claimed that Van der Merwe would also be investigated for knocking hard on office doors.

He said they had received staff submissions stating that Van der Merwe had a confrontational attitude and that this was aggravating the situation.

“She is alleged to have banged on the doors and shouted racial and derogatory instructions at the staff.

“It is alleged she said the hospital was better run before this government ‘employed people like you [the clerk]’.”

Van der Merwe said she had been completely cut out of the investigation and the disciplinary hearing.

“It is completely untrue that I made any comment referring to race or the government. All I said was that the clerk should do her job,” she said.

“I am not letting this go. How can they do an investigation without speaking to me? “There were several other witnesses.” Other patients who were also waiting to be admitted during the 80-minute lunch break also laid complaints.

“The staff has been reminded of the procedural remedies for addressing rude patients such as [Van der Merwe] was, instead of taking matters into their own hands,” Kupelo said.