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Nurses to limit working hours until staff shortages addressed


Nurses at Connie Vorster Hospital in Hartswater will limit their working hours to 12 hours per day until staff shortages are addressed.

File picture: Oupa Mokoena

NURSES at Connie Vorster Hospital in Hartswater will limit their working hours to 12 hours per day until staff shortages are addressed.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the Health and other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) indicated that their members would only work from 7am until 7 pm.

“Once vacancies are filled, nurses are willing to return to the 24-hour shift. Nurses are overworked and overwhelmed, while patients are not receiving the necessary medical attention. Emergency patients will have to be transferred to Kimberley after hours as health facilities in Warrenton and Pampierstad are only open between 7am and 4pm. There are only night-shift and three specialist nurses. There is no one to relieve them if they fall sick or need to take leave. Overtime is not being paid as there are no human resources officials to fill in the time-sheets. There is also a shortage of clinical, theatre, support staff and groundsmen.”

The unions said that there was no toilet paper, surgical supplies or laundry services at the hospital.

“There are no gloves or gauze for stab-wound or maternity patients as the tender for surgical supplies has not been finalised yet.

“Organised labour has engaged with the acting HOD and district health officials regarding these long-standing issues, without any issues being addressed.”

They added that the boiler has been out of order for the past 10 years.

“Laundry and linen have to be transported to Upington or Bloemfontein, which is not cost-effective. There is no coffee or tea for patients.”

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo said they had convened an urgent meeting with trade union representatives on Tuesday to resolve the issues.

“Systems were put in place to address the concerns of staff before they stopped working night shifts. In the meantime, we have staff who are not joining the industrial action and who are working at the facility to care for patients during the night. Therefore, limited night shift duties are continuing,” said Mxekezo.

She added that good progress has been made to address staff shortages.

“We only have a 15 percent vacancy rate for nurses. Interviews for nurses have already been concluded and 20 nurses will be appointed to work in the Phokwane and Magareng municipal districts.

“We had a fruitful engagement with the unions, who are committed to assisting by circulating our adverts to the rest of the country to assist us with the recruitment of nurses.”

Mxekezo explained that not all facilities offered 24-hour services.

She stated that surgical supplies were replenished when stock was running low.

“We have strengthened our supply chain management teams to improve the procurement that has been affected by the suspension of the procurement guidelines of Treasury. Furthermore, the national tender for surgical supplies has been finalised by the national Department of Health and, as such, orders have been placed and some deliveries have been received.”

She said that they had a standing arrangement to support the laundry services in the event that there was a breakdown of equipment.

“Technicians are at the site to finalise repairs of the boiler. The difference between our current process versus previous processes is that service providers were appointed in the past to assist, but we are using capacity, which results in minimal costs.”

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