The government of Lesotho has decided to console the nurses fired by the Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital known as Tšepong, Health Minister Semano Sekatle said in Maseru yesterday.
Speaking at a media briefing for the announcement at the ministry headquarters, Sekatle pointed out that the decision was a result of a long time of looking into the nurses’ situation and realising that the nurses have for the longest time been mistreated.
He said they would start work at their new work place by the beginning of the new month of May.
The move follows a protracted battle between the hospital and the nurses over unsatisfactory salaries.
The fight reached boiling point earlier this year when the nurses and nursing assistants staged a strike that stretched for weeks on end while trying to coax the hospital into talks and a mutually-beneficial solution.
However, management of the hospital chose rather to fire the 345 health workers for going on a lengthy and illegal strike.
Giving background to the nurses’ woes as well as the relationship between government pf Lesotho and Tšepong, Sekatle said they began talks about erection of a referral hospital as far back as 2008.
“Lesotho signed working contract; Public Private Partnership (PPP) Agreement on the 27th October 2008 with Tšepong (Pty) Ltd with the aim that Tšepong will provide the plan, build the hospital, manage and control the hospital and its three clinics,” he said.
Sekatle indicated that Tšepong started its operations in October 2011 saying that a lot of nurses, doctors and other health workers left the government for Tšepong going after impressive salaries as well as equipment.
“The happiness of leaving the government for better salaries did not last long because in 2014 workers went on strike for salaries that were by that time less than what government was paying its employees. Tšepong by that time responded saying the government should pay the workers or give it money to pay its workers. This happened because, in the agreement there was an unforeseen conduct; the government increased the salaries of its employees in 2013, and according to Tšepong that was unforeseen. Who does not know that salaries get increased at some point?” he quipped.
Sekatle stated that the government by that time committed to work to seeing if Tšepong can afford to pay its workers as they demand or not. As a result, workers went back to work and the government discovered that, Tšepong can afford to pay those workers.
“However, in 2020 there was another strike by Tšepong employees over deferential pay for same work. The second issue was the salary gap between Tšepong employees and the government health workers. Instead of sorting out its workers’ issues Tšepong said that it was the government which had to pay them,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, for his part, Minister of Public Service Motlohi Maliehe indicated that the process of solving Tšepong issue was not easy at all.
“It was very difficult for the government to reach the decision, but the decision had to be taken to protect the nurses. From the onset, the Minister of Health decided to form a subcommittee of ministers to resolve the matter. The first step the committee decided on was to terminate the contract with Tšepong,” he said.
Maliehe stated that after that the government had to look for vacancies where fired nurses could be placed in all health centers across the country as well as finding out if there was money to pay them. “After the government found out that there are vacancies where these nurses can be placed, it went on to make a bold decision of employing them as well as incurring all the debts of Tšepong,” he said.