Pretoria – Trade union, the Young Nurses Indaba, on Wednesday said South African nursing professionals are leaving the country en masse, heading to other countries where they are highly sought after, due to the frustration with working conditions, particularly in the Gauteng province.
“It is an issue of the brain drain, but I think the worst situation that we find ourselves today, particularly in Gauteng, is the department of health letting go of more than 8 000 healthcare workers post the pandemic when we have a problem of shortage,” Lerato Mthunzi, general secretary of the Young Nurses Indada, spoke to broadcaster eNCA.
“It is not only those who volunteer to leave, but it is the department saying we do not have vacant funded posts. Yes, we have a shortage (of staff), yes we are giving substandard care, but we are letting go of more, but those who remain working are not coping.”
The Gauteng provincial health department has indicated that, with its Covid-19 budget halved and the spread of the pandemic now under control, it cannot afford to renew all 8 000 temporary posts created during the peak of the killer pandemic.
Mthunzi questioned the hiring of Cuban doctors at the peak of the pandemic and the continued stay of some of the Cuban doctors who are on the payroll of the Gauteng health department even to this day.
“You actually get Cuban doctors who came in and struggle for the better part of the pandemic to just communicate with our people, and they become a burden rather than an alleviation into the healthcare system. And you pay them an exorbitant amount of money. Even today, we still have some of those Cuban doctors in our facilities. It’s just not acceptable,” said Mthunzi.
A response by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to Gauteng Legislature questions posed by the DA’s Jack Bloom this month revealed the provincial health department still has 14 Cuban doctors who are paid between R78 000 and R90 000 each month.
“The Gauteng Health Department spent R30.3 million on Cuban doctors last year and still employs 14 Cuban doctors who earn between R78 000 and R91 000 a month,” the Democratic Alliance’s Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom said earlier this month.
On Wednesday, Mthunzi said the healthcare system in Gauteng was in the intensive care unit.
“I normally describe it (the working conditions) saying, you wake up every morning, and you know that you are going to be an accomplice of murder. It sounds worse as I put it, but you know that you are going to work, you are only human, you have two hands, and if you are in that maternity unit and five women are bearing down at the same time, you can only assist one,” she said.
“The rest, the four women, it is going to be malpractice. You are going to work that is not only draining you psychologically, but you are feeling as if you are going there to cause more harm than good.”
Speaking to Independent Media on Wednesday, Bloom said public health services in Gauteng are in a “state of crisis” caused by chronic mismanagement and rampant corruption at all levels.
“One would have thought that serious steps would be taken to fix the Gauteng health department after the Life Esidimeni tragedy, but scandals continue to happen. The extent of the moral rot is shown by the assassination of health official Babita Deokaran who was trying to stop the rampant looting of money,” said Bloom.
“It is mind-boggling that close to R2 billion was wasted of the extra money made available to save lives in the Covid-19 epidemic. The delay in reopening the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital is devastating for hundreds of cancer and heart patients whose deaths will exceed the 144 deaths of Esidimeni patients.”
He said psychiatric patients still receive “inadequate treatment” in crowded facilities with poor security across Gauteng.
“I suspect that there are scams at virtually all the hospitals where money is siphoned by kick-backs and over-charging. Meanwhile, key posts like head of department and chief financial officer are filled by acting people for more than 18 months,” Bloom lamented.
“There needs to be a purge of corruption, lazy and incompetent officials who should be replaced by honest and capable people who put patients first, not their own pockets.”