THE Eastern Cape Health Department was quick to assure municipal health workers that their jobs were safe as the controversial takeover of Nelson Mandela Bay's clinics became final yesterday.
The South African Municipal Workers' Union, (Samwu), however, said some contract workers had already been told their contracts would be terminated, while others were kept in the dark about the effects of the transition.
Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the department would be taking over primary health care from municipalities province-wide.
"This is what the law says we must do and we are doing it. This means that we will take over the running of the clinics and all primary health care services formerly offered by the municipality,” he said.
He said all nurses would be moved to the provincial department but stressed that no employee would be disadvantaged or lose their benefits.
Kupelo said the takeover should have been done in February, but the department had to engage in a round of negotiations with labour unions and also face a court challenge, which it won.
He said some employees who agreed to be transferred to the department would see their benefits increase by between 5% and 10%.
He said the department would try to improve primary health care in the province.
"We undertake to pay every employee who moves to the department,” he said.
On the issue of drugs he said the provincial department was doing all it could to make drugs available to clinics in need.
"I want to reassure the people from Nelson Mandela Bay that drugs are available. There is no shortage,” Kupelo said.
About 50 members of Samwu protested in Military Road yesterday against the provincialisation of clinics. Samwu representative Sister Winky Mngqibisa said workers were kept in the dark about the move. She claimed the services of contract nurses would be terminated.
"About 80% of our clinics are manned by contract workers so this is going to be a huge loss. They already received letters informing them that their contracts will be terminated at the end of the month,” Mngqibisa said.
Pharmacy interns said their future was now uncertain as they were not informed how the transition would affect them. Additional reporting by Rochelle de Kock