On Wednesday, more than a dozen Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA members braved the cold weather on behalf of the nurses and marched on the department’s head offices in downtown Johannesburg where they demanded that the more than 600 workers be immediately paid their salaries.
The marchers were however left outside for more than an hour before their grievances were heard, following their refusal to leave.
Markos Khensani, who led the group, slammed the department and accused it of undermining nurses, whom he said were the backbone of the province’s congested public healthcare system.
“I think when we come to the department of health we are coming to the home of our employer and we expect to be treated with respect when we come here,” Khensani said, before the group demanded to meet with either MEC Dr Bandile Masuku or head of department Professor Mkhululi Lukhele.
The concerned nurses are graduates of the national government’s nursing programme in which nursing students are trained for four years with a stipend and then placed in various provinces as salaried community service nurses for a year before being fully absorbed into the system.
The department however, failed to ensure that they received their salaries after their placement, leaving them to survive on their stipends.
One of the nurses, Joy Monaledi, said the department had been ignoring their complaints for almost seven months, adding that intakes from previous years have also been subjected to the same treatment of not being paid.
“Are we supposed to do this each and every year? It is not fair. It not fair,” Monaledi said.
Lukhele admitted that the Gauteng department had failed the nurses in terms of translating their stipends into salaries. “It is unfortunate that these particular students were not translated to that level where they were supposed to be translated.
“The directive of the statutory framework is that they should be translated. Certainly from the HOD point of view, they should be translated,” Lukhele said.
Lukhele absolved himself of any blame for the recurring crisis, blaming the management of the process by the department’s human resource department.
“It is a pity that it happens. It is a bigger pity that it not happening for the first time The main thing is the human resource management system. When we train them as the department we train a number and when they go to community service, it is the national health department who allocates,” he said.
He said the department would probe and speedily resolve the crisis.