Health department ordered to place graduate nurse as backlog piles up

Dané Hertz in court this morning. Picture: Twitter/ @solidariteit
Dané Hertz in court this morning. Picture: Twitter/ @solidariteit

A nurses’ union has hailed a court ruling that has given the health department 30 days to place a graduate nurse who has been waiting for six months for a community service post.

Trade union Solidarity represented graduate nurse Dané Hertz in the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday morning. Hertz was meant to be placed for community service in January this year.

Sibongiseni Delihlazo, spokesperson for the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), said the placement of nurses for community service had been an issue across the country – all provinces had been affected, he said.

“The delay [in placement] will prolong the qualification of the students. In order to qualify as nurses they have to take up community service for a year once their four-year qualifications are complete.”

Delihlazo described the backlog as “wasteful expenditure from the department, which funds the students throughout their qualifications with the intention of providing a solution to the demand for nurses in the country”.

He added that the Free State, this year alone, had more than “300 out of 400 graduate students who were yet to be placed for their community service. This is because of poor planning and [human resources financial planning] from the health department.”

Head of Solidarity’s centre for fair labour practice, Anton van der Bijl, said the union had decided to take up the case of Hertz, who is a member of the union, after she had approached them in a case involving eight other nursing students who had not been placed for their community service.

Hertz was the only one of the eight who was not placed following consultation with the union.

“This has become an urgent matter. If she is not placed to complete her one year of compulsory community service, it will not be possible for her to register as a professional nurse.”

Van der Bijl added that many health practitioners had been in the same situation throughout the country and attributed the backlog to the administrative failure of the health department.

The student requested that all media queries regarding her case be directed to the union.

Health department spokesperson, Joe Maila, said the department was not aware of the specific case that appeared before the court this morning.

“I will be in a better position to respond once I have seen and studied the court judgment.”

He said the department “would act accordingly”.

In a similar case, Denosa met with the KwaZulu-Natal department of health this morning regarding the placement of 250 students from the province who were due for placement on July 1.

These students had been given until July 15 to find placement, failing which they would have to vacate their residence to make way for new students.

Mandla Shabangu, provincial organiser for Denosa in KwaZulu-Natal, said that the problem was that placement of graduates had been moved from provincial level to national level.

When Denosa met today with the deputy director-general Bongani Shezi, Shabangu says Shezi – who was unavailable for comment – had agreed with them in principle and said that the delay was due to a delay in the issuing of letters of appointment, which would indicate when the students were supposed to start.

Delihlazo said Denosa hoped that the court judgment would set a precedent for all provinces to act.

Van der Bijl agreed that this court order created an important precedent.

“It is increasingly becoming clear that the public’s patience with the state’s blatant negligence in complying with their statutory obligations is wearing thin. We are planning to launch more similar actions against the department of health soon.”

According to Van der Bijl, the court ordered Hertz to be deployed to the clinic where she had initially applied.

“We are very pleased about today’s ruling but it is distressing that we had to go this far to oblige the health minister and the health department to comply with their statutory obligations,” he said.

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