Health hazard

2008-07-31 00:00

Addressing the KwaZulu-Natal legislature’s portfolio committee for health this week, the MEC for Health Peggy Nkonyeni blamed budget constraints for the inadequacies of service provision and the failure to fill vacant nursing posts. The minister was acknowledging what the Department of Health denied earlier this year when this newspaper exposed serious deficiencies. It is now officially clear that public hospitals in this province are facing a severe crisis.

Behind the current situation is an undisciplined over-expenditure in the previous financial year of R1,2 billion. As a result of this, the national treasury has imposed constraints on expenditure this year. For example, it has forbidden the filling of 33 000 vacant nursing posts. It is a shocking commentary on the present state of affairs that posts which could be afforded before cannot be filled and paid for now.

Why is it that so many nursing positions are vacant? The key explanation is the same as in several other professional spheres of government service. Nurses have left the profession as a result of disenchantment with conditions of service, including discrimination in favour of previously disadvantaged groups. The question is whether others have been coming forward sufficiently to take their place. This is hardly an inviting prospect when the ratio of nurses to patients in public hospitals is 1:69. A further problem is that, because of financial constraints, many hospitals have to function without basic requirements such as syringes and protective gloves and other everyday nursing needs.

Happily, as an article in this newspaper revealed yesterday, there is a more positive element to celebrate. Thembeka Sibisi, a local community worker, wrote of her personal experience not only of the various negative aspects of Edendale Hospital in this city but also of an element of genuine caring, especially in the medical outpatients section. Staff shortages made the familiar long queue inevitable but the service, when given, was efficient and friendly. Here is a personal memory which shows how vital it is for hospital service to be humane as well as professional, even when circumstances are trying.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.