Tšepong Consortium fails to pay workers’ gratuities

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Staff Writer

QUEEN Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) staffers who were employed by the Tšepong Consortium have not been paid their gratuities after the termination of their contracts in August 2021.

The staffers are now employed by the government after it prematurely terminated the Consortium’s contract to operate the hospital on its behalf.

After the government took over QMMH in August, the staffers said the Consortium made a commitment to pay their gratuities by the end of September 2021. But they still have not been paid to date, they said.

They wrote to both the Consortium and the government reminding them of their dues. Their 27 September 2021 letter was addressed to the former general manager of the Tšepong Consortium, Mathuntsane Mohapi; the managing director of Netcare, Chris Smith, and the principal secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Khothatso Tšooana.

“Medical and other staff members working at QMMH would like to express their indignation and frustration subsequent to the breach of the Tšepong PTY Ltd’s agreement with the staff after the termination of its contract by the government of Lesotho with effect from 1 August 2021,” the staffers state in their letter.

“We request the former general manager (Mohapi) to provide the staff with a written document within three working days explaining why the initial agreement was not honoured.

“Please kindly consider this situation as an emergency. Our wish is to get our benefits from Tšepong with immediate effect,” the staffers said.

Contacted for comment, Ms Mohapi said that the Consortium was committed to paying the staffers’ gratuities.

However, she refused to say when they would pay the staffers or explain why they had delayed paying them. She said they had communicated the reasons for the delay to the workers.

In their letter, the staffers suggest that the Consortium was holding back on their payments because it had not paid its termination fees by the government for the cancellation of its contract to operate QMMH on behalf of the state.

“At the end of September, when no payments were made, we inquired from Tšepong. The answer was that Tšepong cannot pay our benefits because it is waiting for the government of Lesotho to pay them before they can sort out our dues. This was contrary to our agreement and this situation has created indignation and frustration among all the employees. It has caused many logistical challenges to employees,” the staffer state in their letter.

Some of the staffers who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity this week said they had since written another letter to PS Tšooana and the Ministry of Labour and Employment concerning their gratuities. We are yet to hear from the PS,” one of the staffers said.

The government has since taken over the running of the hospital after cutting ties with the Consortium.  The Consortium had run QMMH from the time it opened its doors to the public in 2011.

Announcing the decision to sever ties back in March this year, Health Minister Semano Sekatle said the government felt it could no longer continue its 18-year Private Public Partnership (PPP) entered into 2008 with the Consortium for the construction, running and transfer of the hospital due to serious differences which had plagued the agreement from the very beginning.

South African healthcare group, Netcare, had a 40 percent stake in the Tšepong Consortium. Four other companies, namely, Afri’nnai of South Africa; Excel Health, Women Investment and D10 Investments (all from Lesotho) held the balance of the shares.

Mr Sekatle said although the government and the consortium had differed over many issues, the final straw was the latter’s March 2021 decision to fire 200 striking nurses and nursing assistants at the institution.

The nurses had gone on strike on 1 February 2021 to press the government and QMMH to award them salary increments to match their counterparts in other government and private institutions.

The government takeover has not been without its own challenges amid revelations that the hospital now lacks functional equipment, specialist staff, is no longer able to diagnose serious illnesses including cancer and conduct autopsies. Some staffers said it had even run out of stationery for doctors to write proper prescriptions. The scripts are now scribbled on plain bond paper which is not recognisable by professional pharmacies.

The once prestigious facility has been reduced to a mere district hospital, some sources at the institution said last month.

 

 

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