I am concerned that preparations need to be made at Gauteng state hospitals and clinics for a looming strike at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).
Gauteng would be the most affected by this strike, but has not done well in contingency arrangements for previous strikes in the health sector, including the recent mortuary strike.
According to a letter by NHLS Acting CEO, Professor Shabir Madhi, to heads of provincial health departments, there is an impasse with labour over the 2017/18 wage negotiations. The NHLS is only able to offer 3% on total cost-to-company as opposed to the 7.3% demanded by unions. The unions have a certificate of non-resolution from the CCMA and are entitled to go on strike. They are finalizing their strike ballot and could be on strike this week.
The NHLS does more than 80% of all pathology diagnostic services in the country through a network of laboratories.
Service Level Agreements between the Provinces and the NHLS entitles provinces to use private laboratories if the NHLS is not able to offer its services.
Arrangements should be made now with private laboratories as a NHLS strike would be devastating for patients who need urgent tests for HIV/Aids, Malaria, Cancer, and Multi-Drug Resistant TB.