Scores of KwaZulu-Natal professional nurses who were told they would be placed at various state hospitals and clinics at the start of 2019 are sitting at home, jobless and depressed “without any communication from government on placements”.The nurses have all completed their four-year degrees and a year of community service, having received bursaries from the state to study at the KwaZulu-Natal College of Nursing in 2014.To “pay back” the state, they were supposed to be given jobs at state health facilities. But they are now in limbo, unable to take other jobs as they still have to honour their contracts with the state.They completed their one year of community service on December 31 and were supposed to be placed thereafter.“As government bursary holders we have a service obligation with the Department of Health,” said one of the nurses, who asked not to be named.“To date, we have not received any word in writing as to where, when and if we will get placements. We have sent numerous e-mails to the department but we have had no response,” she said.“The government educates people for them to just sit at home.“Our contracts were signed five years ago. We are breadwinners at home, building homes for our families, sending our siblings and children to school and on the day that we were supposed to be starting work post-community service we get told in the corridors and through social media feeds that there are no posts.”She said not only has the Health Department ignored their cries but so has the nursing union, Denosa (Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa).Another affected nurse, who asked not to be named as she feared victimisation from the Health Department, said she was the main provider for her household and had started looking after one of her relative’s children, and is even paying for their tertiary studies.“We are not being told anything and we don’t know what our future will look like,” she said.“The department gave us an education and for that I am thankful but now they are not placing us at hospitals where we are needed.”She said in a ward with 36 patients, there should be at least four professional nurses.“In some hospitals there is only one and during night shifts, the community service nurses are left completely on their own, without any supervision or help,” she said.“This is our passion. We want to help people at the hospitals but this is a total disservice to the patients and to nurses needing jobs.“No wonder there are so many litigation cases, because there are so few nurses.”The nurse said the department knew long before the start of 2018 that they had to absorb the post-community service nurses and when they graduated in October, the government knew “how many of us needed placements”.“There was lots of time to make arrangements but the department has been arrogant.“The hospitals need us. They have told us this, but posts are frozen. We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait and because we are stuck in the service obligation, we cannot look for work at private institutions.“Many of us are so depressed. We just want to work and help patients while providing for our families. If we cannot do that, what is the point in living? Do we have to start dying for the department to notice us and place us,” the nurse asked, between sobs.KZN Health Department spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said the department has not employed any of the nurses as it is in the process of identifying vacant and funded posts.She said compounding the problem was that there are still nurses who need to be regraded, after completing a bridging course from staff nurse to professional nurse.“For this group too, there is still a process that is under way to find vacant and funded posts. The department is currently working to identify solutions for both these groups,” she said.Provincial Denosa secretary Mandla Shabangu said he could not comment as the organisation had not had contact with the department and were waiting for feedback.