Rosemary van Heerden, the newly-appointed head of the eThekwini Municipality’s Health Unit, said she wanted to inject new blood into the unit.
Rosemary van Heerden, the newly-appointed head of the eThekwini Municipality’s Health Unit, said she wanted to inject new blood into the unit.

New City Health head to inject new blood

By Mphathi Nxumalo Time of article published Apr 20, 2021

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DURBAN - THE newly-appointed head of the eThekwini Municipality’s Health Unit, Rosemary van Heerden, aims to inject new blood by hiring staff who are passionate about the job.

This was one of the several changes planned by the born-and-raised in KwaDukuza resident. She also planned to make a difference at the municipal clinics.

Van Heerden takes over from Nomkhosi Gxagxisa who retired last month. Gxagxisa’s tenure was plagued with controversy. In 2010 she was accused of nepotism after her son, Nceba, was appointed as a clerk in the health unit. He was later fired and his mother found guilty of nepotism at a disciplinary hearing in 2013.

Van Heerden, one of 13 children, grew up in a poor household. She said from an early age she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. As a child, she was often inspired when she walked past a hospital and saw immaculately dressed health-care workers.

It was these factors that motivated her to become a nurse. “I wanted to show that despite your background you can make a difference,” Van Heerden said.

And to make a difference, one of her first tasks was to ensure that vacancies were filled. Currently, there are vacancies for three deputy heads after staff retired. Van Heerden said she wanted staff who were competent.

“We need staff that are happy and motivated. The staff also need to feel valued. It’s also important that staff have growth opportunities too.”

Van Heerden, who has 34 years’ experience in the health field, said she was lucky to have worked with great people who taught her numerous lessons. One of these lessons was growth. “You need to invest in people who are hungry for growth.”

“To facilitate staff growth, a good human resource department was important.

“Human resources is the most important strength of an organisation.”

Van Heerden wanted to understand staff attitudes on the front lines.

She also wanted clinics to extend their working hours and address the number of nurses.

“Clinics often closed at 4pm.”

She said limited opening times also led to crowded clinics.

Community education was another facet Van Heerden wanted to tackle. She wanted communities to be educated about how to deal with situations such as the ones brought on by Covid-19.

She said there was supposed to be one environmental health officer for every 100 people, but the current situation had one environmental health officer for every 70 to 80 000 people.

The mother of five said Covid-19 had changed how they operated. She wanted a keen focus on infection control and epidemiology and research. Van Heerden said staff should “put shoulder to wheel” and work hard.

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