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Johannesburg - The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) has rejected the "abrupt, irresponsible" decision by the Gauteng health department to cancel the intake of student nurses at some Gauteng nursing colleges.

Prospective student nurses were scheduled to commence their four-year training programme leading to a diploma in nursing - general, community, psychiatry, and midwifery - from January 15, the YNITU said in a statement on Saturday.

These students had completed and satisfied the stringent selection process conducted from May to December 2017 by the department's central selection centre. The selection process included academic scoring qualification criteria, psychometric tests, interviews, and medical surveillance.

Initially 1020 students were expected for the 2018 intake, but the numbers were later reduced to 700 due to alleged budgetary constraints, and "now the bizarre no-intake announcement".

YNITU cautioned the department that an expectation was created for these students which led to most resigning from their previous employment and those from matric declining other study opportunities.

YNITU demanded that the department reconsider the decision and called on all successful candidates to starts "with their studies as planned". Training of nurses was a priority in addressing staff shortages and in the improvement in the quality of care communities received, YNITU said.

According to media reports on Friday, 700 nursing candidates will not be able to study for a four-year diploma at three Gauteng colleges this year because the provincial health department cannot afford to fund their studies, in spite of a shortage of nurses. Therefore the nursing colleges will only admit first-year students with external bursaries or those who can afford to pay the fees themselves, the Times LIVE reported.

African News Agency/ANA