DURBAN - The "bad attitude" of health practitioners towards service is a big problem facing the South African health sector, the Inkatha Freedom Party said on Saturday.
The IFP appealed to health practitioners to work hard on improving their attitude towards patients no matter what problems they might face in their work places.
This came after an eight-month pregnant woman was allegedly turned away by nurses at Buxedeni Clinic in Nongoma, which resulted to her having to give birth in a minibus taxi.
"The biggest problem that we have in this country is the attitude towards service by our health practitioners. Many South Africans have lost confidence in the health staff because of the mistreatment patients receive. I urge practitioners to change for the better," IFP KwaZulu-Natal MPL and health spokesperson Ncamisile Nkwanyana said in a statement.
"Nursing is not a profession for the faint-hearted and requires top-notch dedication and commitment. We are no longer in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale, the woman with a lamp, lighting the way for the nursing profession.
"Nowadays we are choosing the career because of unemployment, just to get a job. Choosing to enter the nursing profession would prove difficult for those who did not have an 'inner calling for it'," Nkwanyana said.
It appeared that nurses’ "impoliteness" did not merely constitute rudeness, but was a violation of dignity, which in turn hampered the chances of broader human rights. Despite clear policy statements, public perception in South Africa still pointed to blatant violation of patients’ rights through verbal abuse.
The KwaZulu-Natal health care sector was in need of a serious overhaul, because the people mandated to provide health care services "are not working efficiently". A growing tendency among health personnel in government hospitals "not to adequately offer the required health care services to patients" had been observed.
"Government has in the past striven to change the status quo through measures such as the improvement of conditions of service, but still this poor attitude towards work does not seem to change at all. What is even more concerning is that health personnel in this country are struggling to live up to the requirements of their 'noble and selfless' profession," Nkwanyana said.
"We have often heard people narrate how their relatives nearly or actually died due to negligence by a nurse whose role was to simply act quickly and rescue the sick person. More stories are told of how nurses sleep on duty while a patient cries for a glass of water to take their medication."
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu needed to seriously work with health workers’ unions to change the attitude and commitment of health workers to improve service delivery in the sector.
"Nurses with bad attitudes must be kicked out of their jobs when the National Health Insurance comes into effect. When the NHI is up and running, there must be no holy cows. We must slaughter every cow - from a nurse to a hospital manager. NHI cannot work if we have nurses with bad attitude."
The IFP called on Simelane-Zulu to urgently investigate and take the necessary action against any nurses found to be involved in turning away the pregnant woman at the Buxedeni Clinic.
The IFP further commended minibus taxi driver Nhlonipho Zulu, who assisted the woman to deliver her baby in his taxi, and the community members who assisted him when he called for help, Nkwanyana said.