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Johannesburg - Trade union, Solidarity, has on Friday expressed its concern about the current shortage of nursing staff and the detrimental results of this critical shortage for South African health care.

Solidarity said according to the payment and staff administration system, persal, the ratio of nursing staff to the population who visit the public health sector, was one nurse for every 401 people.

"These statistics clearly indicate that nursing as a profession is in danger in South Africa, but the impact thereof on good health care for millions of South Africans is inconceivable," said Hennie Bierman, Head of Occupational Guilds at Solidarity.

Bierman also indicated that the delivery of qualified nursing staff in all nursing categories has decreased by almost 40 percent since 2013.

“Since 2013, annually, 8 535 less nursing practitioners have entered the workforce and the private sector is also experiencing difficulties,” said Bierman.

He said that heavy workload, long hours, challenging circumstances in the workplace, the lack of support, as well as insufficient funds and equipment were contributing factors, among others, to the shortage of nursing staff.

Bierman said that the new guidelines of the Department of Public Service and Administration regarding early retirement will create even more problems for the nursing profession.

“Currently, there are more nursing staff who resign or retire as there are students being trained to enter the workforce. A total of 14 043 of the current nursing practitioners now qualify for early retirement according to the Department’s new policy," said Bierman.

Bierman added that intensive planning and preparation for the future must be done to alleviate the pressure and stress of current nursing practitioners and to develop the profession to world-class status.

"To aggravate the situation, even more, no new private institution has been accredited to train nursing practitioners, and in certain nursing categories, accreditation has already expired at the existing institutions," said Bierman.

"The South African Nursing Council (SANC) also confirmed a decrease in student output. In 2016 there were 21 517 students who completed their studies compared to the 13 036 in 2017. This is a decrease of more than 8,000 in one year." 

The Solidarity Research Institute compiled a comprehensive report in which the most important aspects and standards according to international standards for the profession were discussed.

“The Solidarity Occupational Guild for Nursing Practitioners wants to cooperate with the Department of Health, the SANC, and other role players to find solutions for the problems regarding inadequate training and student output, vacancies which are not filled, poor working conditions and other contributing factors which is forcing this noble profession to its knees," said Bierman.

"We invite these three role players to join and help us to ensure a high quality of health care."

African News Agency (ANA)