Let me be clear, health workers in this country are not appreciated for their value of keeping poor people who cannot afford to go to private hospitals healthy and alive. They care for the poor with great sacrifice, most of the time with inadequate provision of means and space to do their work. As we saw during the height of Covid, sometimes they pay the ultimate price of losing their lives. They deserve to be respected, treated well and paid well. By all indications and facts, this is not done and not because of a lack of complaining by health workers but because of the lack of care by the authorities.
This, however, does not justify their method of raising their noble call for a decent wage, which includes preventing the sick poor from accessing health services when they need them most, intimidating those who choose to work and damaging hospital properties. I call on Catholic health workers, yes, to strive earnestly for a just wage but to dissociate themselves with forces and ideologies that lack respect for life which engage in lawless and criminal activities.
The method for striving for a just wage must be balanced with health workers’ oath to save lives. Again, I am not at all lacking sympathy for the cause of health workers, but the end of their cause does not justify their cruel and thuggish means.
Bishop Sithembele Sipuka
Bishop of Mthatha