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06 May 2020

Hospersa, a Union of more than 60 000 healthcare workers [predominately Nurses] in the public and private health sector, has demanded more appreciation for nurses as the country battles with COVID-19.  This call is made as the international community celebrates International Nurses Day under the theme: “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health”.  The Union has reiterated its demands for sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), safer transport and counselling facilities to ensure Nurses are well equipped as they are at the cold face of the pandemic.  Hospersa has also demanded the introduction of a COVID-19 tax relief and special risk allowance for all categories of health workers, including Nurses, to show appreciation to the many women and men leading the fight against this deadly virus which has claimed thousands of lives.

On 12 May 2020 Hospersa joins the international community in celebrating International Nurses Day.  This annual celebration looks to highlight the important role Nurses play in the 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 – Nursing the World to Health”.  This theme could not be more appropriate as South Africa and the world at large battles the deadly coronavirus.  There has been more than 4 million people, globally, who have contracted the coronavirus while more 280 000 of them have lost their lives.  In South Africa, the infection rate is just above 10 000 with close to 200 reported deaths.  Alarmingly, there has been more than 500 health workers that have tested positive for coronavirus in the country who are predominately Nurses.  Hospersa has hailed Nurses for their bravery under very difficult and risky working conditions.  The Union has also demanded better appreciation and recognition by government for the profession.

“Hospersa honours Nurses for their leading role in the fight against COVID-19,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “Nurses’ role in our clinics and hospitals could not be more important as they lead the fight against this deadly virus albeit without sufficient protection and appreciation from their employers in both the public and private sector.  Insufficient PPE, staff shortages, poor working conditions and limited support measures continue being a thorn in the flesh in the delivery of quality healthcare as the country ramps up its fight against the coronavirus,” added Desfontaines.

“We have seen and heard the many reported incidences where Nurses were not provided with sufficient PPE and their cries for safer working conditions falling on deaf ears,” said Desfontaines.  “As a result, many of them have contracted the deadly coronavirus while their employers in both the private and public health sector looked on in dismay.  Hospersa is of the view that many of the positive cases amongst health workers including Nurses could have been avoided if more protection had been provided,” argued Desfontaines.

“To mitigate the climbing numbers amongst this crucial workforce, Hospersa continues to call on its members not to work when sufficient PPE is not provided,” said Desfontaines.  “We demand safer transport as the majority of Nurses make use of public transport to reach their workplaces thereby increasing the risk of infection amongst our heavily under-staffed health system.  We also demand counselling facilities to deal with the anxiety created by this deadly virus as daily more and more Nurses fear for their lives,” added Desfontaines.

“Furthermore, the staff morale of Nurses in the public sector is very low due to meagre salaries exacerbated by government’s non-implementation of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council salary increase agreement, poor implementation of the Nurses’ uniform allowance and non-translation of Nurses who qualified to progress into higher positions, e.g. (Enrolled Nursing Assistants to Enrolled Nurses and Enrolled Nurses to Professional Nurses).  In the private sector, employers continue implementing less than favourable salary increases in an economic environment characterized by a weaker rand and rising costs which have diminished Nurses’ earnings,” added Desfontaines.

“Nurses are exposed to a great amount of risk every day and receive little support from government,” argued Desfontaines.  “They spend most of their time in hospitals and clinics looking after the ill with limited resources and protection against the Coronavirus.  They remain the thread holding the healthcare system together, giving us a fighting chance against this deadly virus,” added Desfontaines.

“To show appreciation for their bravery, Hospersa demands government to exempt tax deductions on salaries of health workers, especially Nurses.  We also demand the introduction of a special risk allowance as these health workers are expected to work in a highly risky environment without their efforts being recognised” said Desfontaines. 

“The ICN agrees with us and has also called for governments everywhere to acknowledge the crucial role Nurses play in society” said Desfontaines.  “Governments are encouraged to ensure Nurses’ health and safety at work and to improve their pay and working conditions. For Nurses to lead us past COVID-19, their cries cannot continue falling on deaf ears and their demands cannot continue being ignored,” concluded Desfontaines.


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