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March on International Nurses Day to highlight challenges faced by nurses in NC

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Members of the Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) marched to the office of the Premier on International Nurses Day on Thursday to highlight the insurmountable challenges faced by nurses in the province.

Members of the Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) marched to the office of the Premier on International Nurses Day on Thursday. Pictures Danie van der Lith

MEMBERS of the Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) marched to the office of the Premier on International Nurses Day on Thursday to highlight the insurmountable challenges faced by nurses in the province.

Denosa provincial secretary Anthony Vassen said the march coincided with International Nurses Day where a plea was made to the Premier Dr Zamani Saul to clear up bottlenecks in the system.

“We have given them seven days in which to respond to our grievances.”

According to the memorandum, nurses in the province had “nothing to celebrate” in 2022.

“Government continues to undermine the quality of health care in our communities and the nurses who are expected to deliver these health services in the province. We have seen our comrades die of Covid -19 because of corrupt officials and politicians who are more interested in filling their pockets than to ensure that nurses and other health workers are safe in the facilities.”

Vassen pointed out that Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College – that was the only nursing training institution in the province, was not yet fully accredited for the new qualification framework.

“This lack of accreditation has resulted in no intakes to the college for the past three years.”

Vassen stated that implementation dates for the 2023 intake should be provided within the next seven days to ensure that recognised qualifications could be offered within the next two years.

“All lecturers at the Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College should be given sabbatical leave and bursaries to obtain their Masters degrees in nursing. The college has minimal students and it is the ideal time to send these lecturers for training to improve their qualifications. Students and lecturers in the province should be provided with tablets and data.”

Vassen added that current enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing assistants were not able to progress to professional nurses.

“Nursing education and upgrading of skills in the province is non-existent.

“For the last 10 years there has been a general stagnation in the upgrade of nursing skills in the province. Nine out of 10 nurses do not have the relevant qualifications to work in specialised areas, resulting in mistakes being made and litigations against the Department of Health.”

He advised that security staff should be trained to deal with aggressive psychiatric patients and traumatised family members.

“Nurses are assaulted in general wards by mental health patients or verbally abused by their family members. Our members are subjected to disciplinary hearings when they are understaffed and placed under tremendous pressure. The employer has no empathy.”

He stated that provincial government was paying exorbitant amounts for student accommodation and transport.

“These funds could have financed a new college building, as well the ‘now white elephant student accommodation,’ and should have been used to purchase vehicles.

“It could also have financed our lecturers at the college to upgrade their qualifications.”

Vassen also requested clarity as to when the new student nurses residences, new nursing college and satellite colleges would be completed.

He urged for the establishment of a fully fledged provincial mental health directorate in the province in the next six months and develop a plan for the revitalisation of forensic and non-forensic mental health infrastructure in the province.

He indicated that Denosa had to force the employer to reduce the hours worked at facilities due to a shortage of professional staff.

“Provincial government, together with the hospital boards and clinics committees, are unable to identify the crises that plagues the health system in the Northern Cape.

“The time has come where nurses will no longer clean health care facilities, pay for and prepare food for patients, porter patients and act as pharmacists, maintenance men and ambulance personnel. A health system cannot function without nurses or support staff such as cleaners, porters, kitchen staff and clerks.”

Vassen added that many healthcare facilities in the province had broken taps and lights, floors and doors, while laundries were not functioning.

“Nurses are frustrated with nursing care with limited linen, which affects adherence to infection control policies. All facilities should be equipped with water tanks and generators.

“Our communities must be satisfied with sub-standard health services while patients are dying because of the lack of basic equipment or even too few hands to assist.

“Emergency medical services is in shambles in the province with only a limited number of paramedics and personnel qualified to escort critically ill patients. This should not be a duty of nurses.”

He believed that all politicians, officials, and service providers who was found guilty of tender irregularities with regard to the procurement and supply of personal protective equipment during the Covid 19 pandemic that resulted in the death of nurses, community members or employees should be charged with first degree murder.

“Those involved in any tender process that delayed and disadvantaged nursing education in the province must be speedily dealt with in the courts of law.

“All property and revenue amounting to money illegally obtained must be attached to recoup the revenue lost and ploughed back to the Northern Cape Department of Health.”

The MEC for the Department of Health MEC Maruping Lekwene paid tribute to all nurses in the Northern Cape for the critical role they continue to play during the Covid-19 pandemic and for being at the front line of patient care.

“Nurses continue to ensure that patients acquire personalised, high-quality holistic services.”

He indicated that nurses worked under demanding circumstances.

“The key demand for productivity is investment and we remain committed towards ensuring that adequate resources are available at your work spaces, to render quality health services to communities.

“My advice is for all of us to take equal responsibility and fix the health system for the greater good and benefit of patients and health workers, in general. Total dedication, humanness, sacrifice, discipline, accountability, accessibility, loyalty, transparency and high quality care are some of the foundations of the nursing profession. By reinforcing such values into the primary health care setting, we will once again restore this profession to full capacity, in turn improving the quality of health services,” Lekwene said.

He paid tribute to the 45 health workers who died during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We commend those who became infected with Covid-19, recovered and bravely reported for duty to continue carrying the torch during this challenging period.”

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