Trade union Solidarity has reacted with “shock and concern” to the announcement by the Netcare private hospital group that it is looking to change the conditions of service of more than 900 members of staff at its Medicross primary care division.
Although it appears that there will be no retrenchments at this stage, it has not been ruled out by the company. Often retrenchments are a next step in such a process if suitable savings cannot be made.
Medicross provides a range of facilities and services, including 70 family medical and dental centres and 15 day theatres. It also has pharmacies, radiology and pathology facilities, and rents space to various medical professionals in private practice.
Announcement a cause of major concern, says union
In its statement on Friday 12 June, Solidarity said the sudden announcement was a cause of major concern.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has put the medical sector in the front line, where this sector is providing an invaluable service. Health care workers took up their task and responsibility in these times with dedication, which in many cases also required numerous sacrifices,” said Peirru Marx, coordinator for the medical sector at Solidarity.
According to Medicross, the lockdown announced in March had a direct impact on the number of patients it saw across all divisions. Even though the services provided by the hospital group are essential, movement by the public was limited by the lockdown regulations announced under the Disaster Management Act and, consequently, people made less use of medical services.
“While Medicross for now only intends to make changes to the conditions of service, it does not exclude the possibility of retrenchments in future. Solidarity undertakes to assist its members during this process in order to prevent possible retrenchments, and it will examine all possible solutions to protect the interests of its members,” Solidarity said in a statement.
Absa warned last month about private hospital sector
Last month Absa Bank’s investment business published an analysis of the private hospital sector in South Africa and warned that the sector was struggling financially as patients stayed away for anything other than dire emergencies.
Absa said some hospitals could even close temporarily as lucrative elective surgeries – operations that are not of an emergency nature and can be scheduled ahead of time – ground to a halt during lockdown.