The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW), with the majority members at Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Hospital, is in the process of lodging a formal dispute with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), alternatively to also consider applying for an urgent court interdict against the Department of Health.

This follows the Western Cape Department of Health’s decision to terminate funding to the institution, resulting in all NUPSAW members being faced with the termination of employment due to the lack of management and to an ineffective structure that was in operation at this hospital for more than three years.

The service in question is of significant public interest. Patients are referred from various public hospitals from over the province of the Western Cape for treatment and care at the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Sarah Fox CC. The treatment ranges from rehabilitative care to assist with the gradual recovery of a child’s health and strength after an illness or injury and in some cases palliative treatment focusing on relief from the symptoms of a terminally diagnosed child to improve the quality of life for the patient as well as for the family.

A wide majority of patients is from disadvantaged communities and the institution is also situated in a disadvantaged community. Sarah Fox C.C has rendered this service free of charge for more than 50 years. The transfer of this service to another service provider could lead to a repeat of the Life Esidimeni tragedy and patients could lose their lives because they are so fragile and dependent.

During the three years that the Department funded the hospital, the Department even went on to appoint one of their representatives to manage the institution and at a later stage withdrew that representative which makes it clear that the Provincial Department was well-aware of the maladministration under which the hospital was operating. However, despite the crisis, they continued to allocate funds to the institution.

The abrupt termination of the funding of the hospital not only led to the termination of contracts of employment but also to patients who will be left more vulnerable
On 12 July 2018 the Western Cape Department of Health announced that it will not be able to allocate funding to the institution for the provision of a child intermediate care service for the 2018/2019 financial year.

It was said that it lacked submissions that were vital as per funding requirements and therefore did not pass the initial adjudication screening.

Sarah Fox is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) rendering health and palliative care services outsourced by the Department of Health to Sarah Fox Hospital. The employees rendering these services are appointed by the Sarah Fox Hospital under the guidance and supervision of the Department of Health.

100% of the service rendered by Sarah Fox Hospital is derived from referrals from public hospitals under and by the Department of Health and more than 90% of the funding is from the Department of Health.

Therefore, the termination of funding to the institution will affect patients as well as employees.

This disastrous and inconsiderate termination of funds has implications for employees. Some of the employees were selected and recruited by the Department itself and some have 30 to 40 years of service. The Department made no mention of retrenchments as per section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. (See Annexure A)

The Department only stated that the Sarah Fox Board should expedite the termination of contracts of employment of staff by the end of August 2018.

The impact of the dismissals would be enormous especially with regard to the Department not taking into consideration the retrenchment benefits or the security of jobs via a transfer.

NUPSAW proposed a way forward, namely that the Department of Health:

• Put on hold the decision to terminate the funding as that would lead to the institution not being able to render the services.
• The Department to reinstate the funding immediately.
• Establish a new interim governing structure that will be assigned to resume the responsibility of running the Sarah Fox C.C Hospital.
• Allow a proper consultative approach and intervention from various role players including the National Department of Health and Ministry
• Put on hold the intended changes until an agreement on the future of the service is reached.

NUPSAW members at the facility have embarked on peaceful lunchtime demonstrations in an effort to highlight their plight to the public at large. We call on all Progressive Organizations of Civil Society and the public at large to support the struggle of the Sarah Fox workers to secure the continuity of the services rendered at the Hospital and to continue the Fight against Job Losses.

For more information:
Provincial Office Manager: Western Cape
Omar Parker
084 448 7732

Issued by
Media Office
Head Office, Pretoria
082 455 2215

Annexure A : The Section 189 Retrenchment Process in Terms of the Labour Relations Act.