The Health Department said it remained open to engage with any affected stakeholders regarding its uniform regulations for staff.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla was asked by NFP MP Munzoor Shaik Emam whether he intended to intervene in the saga involving Muslim women, to whom it is customary to have their heads covered, being restricted while on duty in healthcare facilities from wearing their headscarves.
Phaahla said while it was customary for women of the Muslim faith to have their heads covered, not all Muslim women covered their heads.
He also said the nursing profession had members of the Muslim faith who currently did not wear headwear.
“It is the employer’s responsibility to provide the uniform or give a cash allowance to its employees if the wearing of a uniform is a condition for their work.
“This is also aligned to the prescripts and regulatory framework of the nursing profession as reflected in the SA Nursing Council regulations.
“Chief amongst these is the imperative to uphold and portray professional identity and image, in addition to minimising any potential risk to patient safety.
“The regulations stipulate that the wearing of the uniform should enable all nurses to display the devices which distinguish a nurse providing care in line with her professional qualifications from others,” he said.
Phaahla also said the dress code for nurses had always served as an administrative instrument to give effect to service obligations that were imposed by the profession on their members.
Since 2005, nurses have been provided with an allowance to purchase their own uniform.
He said the unintended consequence has been a lack of standardisation in terms of colour, material composition and quality of garment.
“The recent circular intended to restore standardisation in the wearing of uniforms. In addition to affirming the historic position of the department regarding wearing of adornment while on duty.”
Phaahla said the Department of Health was aware of the objection raised by Muslims organisations.
“This is the first time that the decade old practice reading wearing of adornment while on duty is being challenged.
“The department remains open to engage with any affected stakeholder in this regard,” he said.