Nurses pushed to their limits
Reacting to concerns raised by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the department said while it was aware of the staff shortages and other issues, its hands were tied due to budgetary constraints.
“Although these issues are related to fiscal pressures, the department is doing all in its power to seek ways to fill vacancies, particularly for those who are considered essential,” said spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda.
Denosa’s provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said: “That simply means the pace of service for patients becomes slower every day, especially as health workers are not replaced when they leave that institution.
“It also means health workers have to stretch themselves to breaking point without any adjustment in their remuneration in line with the added tasks, and that is exploitation.”
Further strain was being added by the department not filling vacant posts for enrolled and assistant nurses, as they are not considered critical or essential staff, yet more work is being piled on, particularly on clinic staff.
“Denosa has noticed that many health facilities and almost all Community Health Centres (CHCs) in the province have disregarded the approved staff establishments in terms of their service package and have added more health programmes in facilities without adding the number of workers and updating the staff establishments,” said provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu.
He said these additional programmes include the test-and-treat initiative in the management of HIV/Aids.
Phakamani Ndunakazi, provincial secretary of the National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), said they have been receiving complaints from members since the rollout of the test and treat programme two years ago.
“We have even asked the Premier (Willies Mchunu) to intervene. The department is not filling posts whereas there was already a shortage of nurses. Nurses are working under pressure and that ends up compromising patient care,” he said.
In his budget speech in May, Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said KZN has the potential and will to deal with the increased number of patients, as there were qualified nurses already trained in the initiation and management of patients on antiretroviral treatment.
According to Dhlomo, there were 1.28million people on treatment at the time.
On Tuesday, the department said it always strives to ensure that when new programmes are introduced, staff are trained.
The objective was always to improve the delivery of healthcare services. “By continuing to work hand-in-hand with unions, such as Denosa and others, the department remains committed to alleviating the challenges it is faced with.”
Shabangu demanded that the department address the shortage or it will “mobilise nurses not to comply if they are forced to work on programmes not reflecting in the approved staff establishment.”