The Charlotte Maxeke hospital, also known to some as Joburg Gen, was chaotic during unpaid-bonus related disruptions. Picture: ALON SKUY​
The Charlotte Maxeke hospital, also known to some as Joburg Gen, was chaotic during unpaid-bonus related disruptions. Picture: ALON SKUY​

The Gauteng health department has moved to defuse tension with unions, which led to last week’s violent protests at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, by undertaking to pay outstanding staff bonuses by the end of June.

Unpaid bonuses for 2016-17 were the trigger for last Thursday’s violent disruption of services, with operations postponed and patients turned away as members of various public-sector unions threatened staff, blocked entrances and strewed rubbish about the facility.

Charlotte Maxeke is one of Gauteng’s four academic hospitals. Thursday’s demonstration was the latest in a series of similar incidents. Operations were cancelled at Leratong Hospital in Krugersdorp on Tuesday due to protests, while services at Charlotte Maxeke were brought to a standstill in late April by union members.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union’s Gauteng provincial secretary, Tshepo Mokheranyana, said he hoped the latest incident had "taught the department a lesson", but in the same breath said the union did not endorse violent protests that placed patients’ lives at risk.

The incident was unplanned and had involved several unions, Mokheranyana said.

"It’s very difficult for us to take responsibility because we can’t be sure it’s our members. We have spoken to our members and encouraged them to apply other strategies [to protest]," he said.

Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokopa said the destruction of hospital property, intimidation and threats to the lives of patients could not be justified.

"These acts are criminal, inhumane and of great concern. Police are expected to make arrests of the perpetrators."

kahnt@businesslive.co.za