Tuesday, 10 May 2022
KIMBERLEY – The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa in the Northern Cape will be commemorating the International Nurses Day on the 12th of May 2022 together with all nurses in the province and around the country by marching to the Office of the Premier as a way to voice out their unhappiness over the dwindling quality of healthcare services that is rendered to patients in the province due to shortage of staff, budget cuts and non-production of nurses for the province from the nursing college.
Every year, this is a day on which nurses celebrate the achievements on the impact that nurses have made in the health system and look at how we can improve on those achievements. This year the theme for International Nurses Day is “Nurses A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and Respect Rights to Secure Global Health”.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to celebrate in 2022. Nurses in the province have seen a continued trend by the government to undermine health in our communities and the nurses who are expected to deliver these health services in the province. Nurses died 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 were safe in their facilities. The employer continued to undermine the HR policies which promote fair practice in the workplace by delaying grade progressions, payments of overtime and allowances, EPMDS cash bonuses to qualifying nurses and, worst of all, the employer continues to promote the stagnation of the nursing profession in the province by not advancing the upgrading of skills, like the various specialities, amongst nurses.
Nursing Education in the province has come to a stand-still with no intake of new students over the last 3 years, including 2022. As DENOSA we cannot see an intake to the college in the near foreseeable future as the college has not yet been fully accredited for the qualification under the new nursing curriculum. An even bleaker future is painted by the possible reduction in the number of students that the college will admit should it be accredited, that being from 60 students per year to only 30 students per year. When looking at the number of nurses exiting the services on a yearly basis, either through retirement, death or nurses simply searching for greener pastures, the 60 students that were previously admitted already could not meet the demand of an ever-shrinking nursing fraternity in the province.
In 2019, 46 retired from the services, 6 died and 106 terminated their employment with the department in the province. In 2020, 41 retired from the services, 16 died and 87 terminated their employment with the department in the province. In 2021, 45 retired from the services, 16 died and 132 terminated their employment with the department in the province. These are stats received from our membership fluctuation database.
Furthermore, the advancement of the nursing fraternity in the province has stagnated for many years, disadvantaging our communities from not receiving specialised care from nurses in our facilities. Nurses must take money from their own pockets to train in speciality areas of practice, which is unaffordable to them. This speciality services are the main requirements for the realisation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) which is a common goal for both DENOSA and our government. This is further impacted by an Employer who does not release nurses to further their studies because of shortages of staff.
DENOSA has over the last year forced the Department of Health to reduce the hours of operation in various facilities because of the severe shortage of staff in those facilities. An example of this is Warrenton CHC that is a 24-hour Community Health Centre, but the hours had to be reduced to 8 hours per day from Monday to Friday with no services after 16h00 or on weekends. This has greatly negatively impacted the health services to this community, including that of emergency care and maternity services. Nurses do not want to make these decisions, but the reluctance of the province to appoint more nurses or increase the production of nurses has resulted to nurses having to stand up for the rights of their patients by taking extraordinary measures to get their point across. One Professional Nurse cannot service a maternity ward, casualty, paediatrics and general ward. This leads to mistakes and the unfortunate demise of their patients, traumatising these people who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities.
Besides the challenges that nurses are facing in fulfilling their own duties, their situation is further negatively impacted by the lack of support staff, which includes cleaners, porters, clerks and kitchen staff. Covid-19 has taught the world the importance of hygiene and how to protect your immediate environment from the spread of pathogens. Unfortunately, this is not viewed as critical by our government as there has been no appointment of cleaning staff for nearly 10 years in the Department of Health, leaving health facilities without skilled cleaning services. Any nurse knows that the road to recovery for any patient includes their environment and the cleanliness thereof.
The continuous break down of generators or the simple lack of a generator in health facilities, especially in rural areas, has resulted in the halt of health services on several occasions during load shedding. Most of the equipment used by nurses are dependent on electricity, especially those in emergency units, ICUs and Maternity wards, but not excluding the equipment used in CHCs and PHCs. Nurses then have to bite the bullet and accept insults from community members when services are slowed down because of the lack of generators, or even the fuel to start them up.
The safety of nurses and other health workers has over the years been in the spotlight because of serious assaults and killings of patients and staff in health facilities all over the country, recently in the Western Cape. DENOSA is of the opinion that the current security services provided by our government is insufficient and that trained insourced staff should be appointed specifically for the environment and conditions of health. The province has seen several incidents of violence in our facilities which should have alerted our government that security and the way it is delivered in our health facilities needs to be relooked at and addressed to ensure that all communities and staff are always protected when entering a health facility.
Looking at the above challenges, which are only the tip of the iceberg, that nurses have to face on a daily basis, DENOSA in its Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) held in April 2022 recognised that the nurses of the Northern Cape have nothing to celebrate.
In fact, the nursing fraternity in the province is in mourning over a profession that is finding itself in ICU. The PEC therefore resolved that nurses must rise up on the 12th May 2022 and march to the Office of the Premier, who is the highest authority in our province, and express their disappointment towards our Provincial Government for allowing this continued deterioration of health services in the province.
The nurses of this province will deliver their demands to the Premier, demands which if met will ensure the revitalisation of the nursing fraternity in the province and quality health service delivery to our communities.
Issued by DENOSA in Northern Cape.
For more information, contact:
Anthony Vassen, DENOSA Northern Cape Provincial Secretary
Mobile: 072 569 9838