#InternationalNursesDay: SA nurses live in fear

File picture: Dumisani Dube

File picture: Dumisani Dube

Published May 12, 2016


Pretoria - The lack of security in public health facilities put the country at risk of losing more nurses to the private sector and other countries, according to nurses on the eve of the commemoration of #InternationalNursesDay.

Nurses said on Wednesday they were in constant danger of being attacked because of a lack of security in public health facilities. This left them open to abuse by community members, families and, in some cases, patients. “Nurses remain victims of violence from the people they are supposed to save and serve,” said Lebogang Phela from the Young Nurses Indaba.

He spoke as reports of attacks on nurses increased, and after a nurse in Limpopo was killed by a mental health patient. A nurse in Pretoria was left traumatised when the husband of a patient who had just died held her and banged her head against a wall last month. Others have been strangled and raped by patients and intruders.

“We are mourning the death of our profession on a number of fronts,” Phela said, while the Democratic Nursing Organisation (Denosa) threatened to withdraw nurses if the security situation was not addressed. “If this issue is not addressed urgently, we will protect nurses by withdrawing them from all unsafe wards and sections as their safety and livelihood are not ensured by the employer,” spokesman Sibongiseni Delihlazo said.

He said nurses lived in fear, especially in the far rural sections of the country. “You find some huddled in the dark against the danger in some community health centres in rural towns in fear of nyaope addicts who harass them and steal their belongings because they know they are unlikely to be stopped by anyone.”

Pretoria nurses, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the danger as real, and said wards and passages were not safe for them anymore.

“Death stalks us every day when we are at work, and at times it is the restraint you notice when families become aggressive that makes you realise they could harm you badly if they could,” a nurse from a clinic in Soshanguve said.

Another spoke of her experience working evenings at a community heath centre, saying: “There are lights outside on the street, but danger lurks in the dark shadows along the short distance between the bus stop and the gate.”

Drug addicts and lay-abouts snatched nurses' bags and searched patients for medication. “We have asked for security inside and outside from our managers for years, but this has not come,” the senior nursing sister said.

Provincial MEC Qedani Mahlangu this week called for restraint in attacks on health professionals, saying the 65 who had already been abused in the line of duty since January was too high.

She said the department had beefed up security measures to reduce assaults.

“Violent patients are sedated and isolated in seclusion rooms, and all wards at psychiatric hospitals have CCTV cameras to assist in monitoring patients continuously.”

But that was hardly enough to stop the threat of a severe brain drain, Denosa said. The union would conduct community awareness on the need to protect nursing staff if the health of the community was to be taken care of.

Delihlazo said security in private health facilities was guaranteed, and the incentives of going overseas was much higher than staying in a country where nurses lived in fear of their lives.

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Pretoria News

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