Union gets interim order against retrenchment at McCord hospital

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has obtained an interim order in the Labour Court in Durban preventing the board of a 104-year old hospital from retrenching its workers.

Nehawu secretary Zola Sapetha said the court had given the board of McCord Hospital until October 1 to lodge papers detailing why such an order should not be made permanent.

The board closed the hospital on Friday after a breakdown in negotiations for the KwaZulu-Natal department to buy the hospital.

The board claimed in a statement the department’s offer was too low to cover the hospital’s present and future liabilities.

It said it had agreed to discount the independent valuation of the property by more than 40% to try and find a solution.

“Unfortunately, the DOH’s [department of health’s] offer, in terms of the financial consideration for the properties, was far less than this.”

Earlier this year, the hospital was slated for closure after the department opted not to renew its annual subsidy.

At the end of January, health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo announced the department had made an offer to take over the hospital.

The board said the department’s offer not only failed to reach the discounted value of the hospital’s assets, it failed to adequately relieve the board of its obligations, including existing and future claims that might be made against it.

Dhlomo was scheduled to brief the media on issues relating to the hospital’s closure on Wednesday, however provincial health spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi said this had been cancelled “due to the fact that the board of McCord’s Hospital has requested for a meeting with government”.

Unions and opposition parties have called on the board and the department to keep the hospital open.

In a statement yesterday, the ANC’s provincial working committee (PWC) said it had received a report on progress towards an agreement between the board and the department to keep the hospital running.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesman Senzo Mkhize said a provincial government team, led by Dhlomo and finance MEC Ina Cronje, had communicated with the board and the health department in an attempt to keep the hospital open.

“The PWC instructed the provincial government team to reach an amicable solution to avoid further disruption at the hospital,” said Mkhize.

He said the ANC was concerned at the board’s decision to unilaterally announce the closure of the hospital while negotiations were still in progress.

“We view this as irresponsible and we call on the board to commit itself to these crucial negotiations to ensure that an agreement is signed to avoid closing Durban’s 103-year-old hospital.”

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