Celebrating 27 years of uniting nurses

DENOSA concerned with unavailability of specialty courses for nurses in SA universities and colleges this year as they are still on SAQA queue 

Media statement 

Monday, 21 February 2022 

PRETORIA – with cases of Gender-Based Violence, motor vehicle accidents and medicolegal cases emanating from maternity sections on the increase in the country, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) is extremely concerned that there is currently no avenue to upskill local nurses on specialty courses at any institution of higher learning this year, which is likely to have sour consequences for patients in greatest need of these specialist nurses. 

The specialist courses await National Qualification Framework (NQF) Level approval from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), which is a process that is likely to take much longer than the country can afford to wait without the training of the nurses in these key and essential specialist areas. 

Specialty nursing courses include key areas for the country’s healthcare needs like forensic nursing, emergency/trauma nursing, ICU nursing, theatre nursing, psychiatric nursing, orthopaedic nursing, occupational health nursing and advanced midwifery among many others.

DENOSA pleads with the authority to fast-track the process so that universities and colleges can start with the enrolment of nurses in these post-graduate programmes, which would be in the best interest of the nation.

Already, the country is grappling with a serious shortage of both general nurses and especially specialist nurses, which could also lead to the death of patients. A province like Gauteng with about 14 million population has a mere 700-ICU trained nurses in the public sector, when terrible accidents occur daily and over the weekends with many patients needing high care like ICU. This is when a nurse-to-patient ratio in the ICU should be 1:1 (one nurse for each patient), but due to the gross shortage, each nurse looks after more than four patients in ICU on average, which is disastrous.

Since the introduction of the new nursing curriculum in South Africa this year, all institutions of higher learning that intended to offer any nursing programme had to first be accredited by the South African Nursing Council (SANC) for such programmes in line with the new requirements, as well as for such programmes, whether undergraduate or post-graduate, to be accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). 

While many institutions have received accreditation to offer under-graduate programmes, not a single institution has been approved by SAQA to offer post-graduate nursing courses like Advanced Midwifery, Psychiatric Nursing, Forensic Nursing, Trauma Nursing and ICU Nursing at the time when the skills shortages in the specialty space are gross and could potentially lead to the death of patients in facilities, especially those requiring specialist care. 

What concerns DENOSA greatly is that, currently, none of the institutions of higher learning in some provinces like the Eastern Cape have received accreditation from the SANC to offer any of the post-graduate programmes in nursing, which could prove disastrous in the long-term as the province will suffer a severe shortage of specialist nurses. The temporary alternative for the province would be to send its nurses for training to other provinces. The provinces where there are institutions that have been accredited to offer the specialist courses will also battle space constraints.

With the ushering in of the new curriculum, the greatest risk to nursing for the whole country, however, is the thousands of nurses (and they are the majority) holding college Diploma qualifications who would not be able to enrol for any of the post-graduate programmes instantly and would first need to do an Advanced Diploma course in Midwifery in order to earn themselves 120 credit points which will, with 480 credit points in total, qualify them for enrolment for a post-graduate course of their choice. The college Diploma is 360 credit points, and the entry requirement for a postgraduate programme under the new curriculum is a qualification with 480 credit points. There, again, the Eastern Cape does not even have this course (Advanced Diploma in Midwifery) available or accredited for any of its four institutions of higher learning. And most nurses are produced by the public colleges than the universities.   

Why SA can’t afford to miss a year in enrolling nurses on specialty courses:

–          Already, the country is experiencing a serious shortage of both general nurses and especially specialist nurses in almost all areas;

–          Road carnages in the country are a daily occurrence and most patients die from injuries, which means facilities need sufficient numbers of specialist nurses on Emergency/Trauma, Orthopaedic, Theatre and ICU;

–          South Africa currently has a second pandemic, in the form of Gender-Based Violence as declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa. This area, in the country’s Thuthuzela Care centres needs sufficient numbers of Forensic Nurses. These are specialists who, when taking care of victims of abuse, do so in a way that also collect evidence which assists in the administration of justice and can improve conviction rate of perpetrators. These specialist nurses are few and far between in the country;

–          Cancer patients need a specialist care, and Oncology Nurses come in handy in this regard. But there are few of them, making it impossible for patients to receive adequate care immediately;

–          Mental health is a serious problem in South Africa, and drug abuse amongst teenagers is on the rise with no tangible interventions in place. Psychiatric nurses are greatly needed to assist in this regard in almost every facility that has a 72-hour observation unit. The shortage of nurses trained on Psychiatric Nursing remains a great injustice to patients suffering from mental illness. And there are still provinces with no mental institutions, which is the clearest sign that of how we are undermining this area. The Life Esidimeni tragedy is giving us the proof;  

–          Health institutions are increasingly posing danger to both patients and workers, and some ceilings are falling on nurses and patients in sensitive units like maternity, all because of a shortage of Occupational Health Nurses who should be preventing workplaces becoming hazards that they have become (not long ago, a section at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital fell, risking the lives of patients, visitors and workers).      


Issued by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA).

For more information, contact:

Cassim Lekhoathi, DENOSA Acting General Secretary.

Mobile: 082 328 9671 

Simon Hlungwani, DENOSA President.

Mobile: 082 328 9635   

Leave a Comment