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11 May 2017


The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) celebrates the role played by nurses in delivering health care services in South Africa. The Union also encourages nurses to continue being the lifeblood of the country’s health care system where corruption and mismanagement have led to decreasing working conditions in public health facilities.

On 12 May 2017, Hospersa joins the international community in celebrating International Nurses Day. This annual celebration looks to highlight the important role nurses play in society and marks the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) leads these celebrations and this year’s theme is “Nurses, a voice to lead, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)”. In South Africa, nurses have a critical role to play where staff shortage, corruption and poor working conditions characterise the country’s deteriorating health care system.

“Hospersa recognises the role played by nurses in our communities where they work under severe pressure on day to day basis,” says Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines. “The public often points the finger of blame to nurses when there is a shortage of medication and long waiting queues in public clinics and hospitals. “Instead, nurses should be applauded for being the lifeblood of a health care system plagued with maladministration and corruption,” added Desfontaines.

According to 2015 figures compiled by the South African Nursing Council, for every 402 people in South Africa, there is only one registered nurse to see to them. It is estimated that one nurse does the work of three to four nurses as a result of staff shortage in public health facilities.

“We have raised the staff shortage issue in public health with the Department of Health (DoH) on numerous occasions with little response,” said Desfontaines. “Poor working conditions and being overworked are driving many health care workers to leave public health for better opportunities. What is more alarming is that the DoH is not filling these vacant posts while many qualified health care workers remain on the unemployment line,” added Desfontaines.

The reported shortage of medical supplies also contributes to the difficult conditions nurses work under. Mismanagement and maladministration have been blamed where the reported flaunting of supply chain processes has lead to insufficient medical suppliers in public health facilities. One such case was reported in Brits Hospital, North West province, where the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Clinical Manager allegedly engaged in corrupt procurement processes of a CT scanner worth R15 million.

“Corruption and maladministration remain a thorn in the flesh in public health,” argued Desfontaines. “Nurses need to voice out against corrupt officials in their workplaces as ultimately it is the nurses’ jobs that get affected the most. It is the nurses that have to explain to patients why certain medication is not available and this often leads to poor staff morale where patients get turned away without being assisted,” added Desfontaines.

Further reports have highlighted the poor working conditions at public health facilities where even the Department of Labour (DoL) has issued the DoH with a section 7 notice over the many Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) contraventions. Hospersa has since met with the DoL Chief Inspector on 13 March 2017, to table some of the OHS transgressions by the DoH. Some of the transgressions tabled were ranging from governments failure to protect health care workers from contracting TB in the workplace as well as unsafe working conditions where nurses work in dilapidated buildings.

“Nurses put their lives at risk everyday by working under such unsafe conditions,” said Desfontaines. “We call on the DoH to address all the OHS issues as instructed by the DoL so working conditions in public health facilities can be improved,” added Desfontaines.

“Nurses spend most of their time in hospitals and clinics looking after the ill with limited resources,” said Desfontaines. “Their role in our clinics and hospitals ensures that health care reaches the most vulnerable South Africans who depend on it the most. Nurses remain the thread holding the public health care system together where mismanagement, corruption and staff shortage continue to paralyse it,” concluded Desfontaines



Total words (excluding heading):  683


For interviews please contact Hospersa Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines on 083-321-4427.


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