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Newborn is casualty of S. Africa strike

Associated Press / August 20, 2010

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JOHANNESBURG — A newborn died yesterday as he was being rushed from a rural government clinic shut down by South Africa’s civil service strike, an example of the costs of an action that has hit hospitals, schools, and courts across the country.

On the second day of the strike, Mpho Gabane, health department spokesman in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, said the baby’s mother had gone to the clinic in labor and experiencing complications, and found no nurses or doctors. The woman was being taken by ambulance to another clinic, but gave birth on the way. Gabane blamed the strike for the baby’s death.

“We say outright this is related to the strike because had she been attended to earlier the child could have been saved,’’ Gabane said.

The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, called for the government and workers to come together to end the strike quickly, saying people were suffering. Makgoba also called for hospital staff and other essential workers to return to work immediately.

“How do we look at our society and say, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled’ when patients needing high levels of care are without proper nursing staff and students are told they must provide for their own education?’’ he said in a statement.

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, Defense Department spokesman, said army medical staff was deployed to several hospitals around Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal yesterday after the health minister requested assistance.

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