Alternative accommodation provided for some of the students following engagement between department and nurses union
THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) were forced to arrange alternative accommodation for student nurses in Kimberley on Tuesday after they threatened to boycott International Nurses Day on Wednesday.
This follows after the students protested outside the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital (RMSH) in Kimberley for the second day on Tuesday, demanding that the Northern Cape Department of Health do something about their “horrible living conditions”.
They barricaded the entrance to the hospital on Tuesday morning with their luggage and bedding demanding that they be provided with alternative accommodation.
They said that their current accommodation at Ous Meisie’s Guesthouse, where many of them have been staying for the past three years, was “horrible”.
They threatened to continue with the protest action on International Nurses Day on Wednesday.
“If they think we will stop the protest and paint a beautiful picture of Nurses Day on Wednesday, they have something coming,” they said.
The student nurses had begun their protest action at the James Exum Building on Monday, calling on the acting HOD, Riaan Strydom, to address their grievances and arrange alternative accommodation for them.
They protested in the parking area during the day before returning to the building late on Monday night, where they forced entry to the facility.
The students were removed from the James Exum auditorium during the early hours of Tuesday morning by security guards.
They moved their protest back to the parking area, where they waited for feedback from the engagement between the department and Denosa with regards to alternative accommodation.
The student nurses said that they were being “treated like dogs”.
They said that they have been staying at the private guest house for the past three years and that their grievances have not been taken seriously by the department.
The students demanded to be addressed by the MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene, after claiming that the acting HOD had failed to act on their grievances.
They refused to return to the guest house, where they said they were being ill-treated.
According to the student nurses, they are served rotten food and the sewage system is a “nightmare”, with frequent sewage spillages and a constant stench.
“No one seems to know what to do because the owner of the guest house has friends in high places,” said one of the students.
Another student also blamed “political connections” for the half-completed nursing accommodation that has been under construction next to the Kimberley Mental Health Hospital for a number of years.
They further complained that the stipend of R1,500 that they have been receiving is too little.
The students also slammed the training that they received.
“The department should be ashamed of the poor quality of training they give us, the future nurses.
“We are the future nurses who are pressured into achieving a 100% pass rate during exams while we do not even get allocated textbooks,” the students added. “When we have to make copies of the limited textbooks we are told there is no ink.
“This is the only nursing college in the Province but they treat us like they are doing us a favour.”
Denosa was meanwhile locked in engagements with the department, which resulted in 23 of the 44 students being moved to other guest houses.
The provincial organiser of Denosa, Vincent Phuroe, said that a residential committee was established that consisted of representatives from the department, organised labour and the college.
Phuroe said that 15 more students will be moved from the current guest house to other accommodation after they agreed to return until an alternative residence is identified.
He also applauded the department for not forcing the students to return to their current accommodation “against their will”.
“The committee still has to investigate the allegations made by the students,” said Phuroe. “We promise that no one will be forced in this regard. Everyone will exercise their democratic right.”
He added that engagements will continue and outstanding issues will be ironed out.
The owner of Ous Meisie’s Guesthouse, Tex Moraladi, claimed that he had taken in some of the nursing students after they were expelled from their previous accommodation and had nowhere to go, about two years ago.
He said there were some among those students who “bear grudges” whenever they are disciplined for misbehaving and disregarding the department’s code of conduct for student accommodation.
According to Moraladi, those students also sometimes threatened the staff at the guest house.
Moraladi claimed that the students wanted to “deflect from the issue of misbehaving” and had mobilised against the guest house and management.
“My intention was to mould them as I knew they still had a bright future ahead of them. If we tolerate the students to continue rowdy behaviour, what kind of nurses will we have in our health institutions tomorrow,” said Moraladi.
The Northern Cape Department of Health had not responded to media requests for comment by the time of going to publication.