A lack of safety in the workplace, underpayment and understaffing, which have resulted in poor wellness and burnout among nurses, are some of the challenges highlighted by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) as the country celebrated International Nurses Day on Thursday.
Denosa said these challenges were pushing nurses to either leave the profession or emigrate to high income countries. The union called on government to invest in nursing to avoid a skills loss.
Meanwhile, the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) called for all nurses to boycott the celebrations as the profession was under attack.
Kwena Manamela, Denosa’s acting general secretary, said funding for nursing education was on a decline with universities and colleges producing fewer nurses while the demand in clinics and hospitals grew.
“Although institutions of higher learning produce less nurses for health facilities, even the few that are produced, many remain unemployed for years and sit at home with their essential skills. As a result, healthcare facilities are faced with gross staff shortages that are crippling the quality of service delivery. Many facilities, such as in the Northern Cape, are cutting drastically on operating hours due to the shortage,” Manamela said.
He said emigration was the greatest threat to nursing and healthcare services, especially in the low-income countries. He called for a solid nursing retention strategy in South Africa to avoid a mass exodus of skilled and experienced nurses.
“All these problems point to a leadership vacuum in nursing. The lack of coordinated nursing leadership in government setting is becoming counterproductive to the country in terms of healthcare services.”
The YNITU general secretary Lerato Mthunzi, said the education, training and development of nurses had reached a screeching halt.
“For five years, the SA Nursing Council (SANC) and the Council for Higher Education had failed to come up with a progressive programme that will allow nurses to advance their careers. They are still saying they need more time to come up with sufficient detail in scope and depth to address the articulation of a four year diploma and a one year diploma in midwifery,” Mthunzi said.
She said nursing was not a luxury or privilege which should only be afforded to a chosen few. It was a necessity to improve the quality of nursing care offered to patients.
The union demanded that the SANC should “fast-track the alignment and articulation of a four-year diploma and not think that downgrading it to NQF 6 will be accepted by the nursing fraternity”.
“Nurses were hailed as heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic but they did not get any recognition in terms of increased pay. The gross shortages of all categories of healthcare workers – nurses in particular – have resulted in disturbing job displacement. Nurse are exhausted and fatigued and this has a negative impact on the quality of nursing they deliver. Unfortunately, it is the poor black majority who suffer the consequences of this neglected healthcare system,” Mthunzi said.