Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. File photo: ANA

PRETORIA - Nehawu on Monday welcomed Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s announcement of the creation of more than 5 300 posts for healthworkers, both in clinical and in support staff throughout South Africa.

"This announcement presents a platform for the national union to launch a more aggressive campaign against the non-filling of funded posts in the public service and to decisively confront the scourge of under-staffing. In itself, the announcement encapsulates an underlying correct economic policy logic, i.e. that the filling of posts and spending on human resources is indeed an investment that also has the positive benefit of the multiplier-effect contributing in the stimulation of economic activity," said Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha.

"This is in marked contrast to the neo-liberal notion that narrowly conceives human resources as a cost that must be reduced, even in the public service where clinicians and other supportive categories of health workers are indispensable in rendering better health care."

The filling of posts will take place in January 2019 after both the President Stimulus Package and the Presidential Health Summit emphasised the need increase spending in both health and education including the creation of more posts. 

"We are, however, concerned by the slow place in implementing this decision as the [Presidential] Stimulus Package was announced more than two months ago. As Nehawu, we hold a strong view that 5,300 posts are not adequate and that more posts would have to be filled in order for the public health sector to perform at its optimum best," said Saphetha on behalf of the Nehawu secretariat.

"We applaud the fact that a large chunk of the 5,300 new posts to be created will [be] allocated to employing more nurses. This further validates the assertion by our Nurses Seminar convened last month that the country needs more nurses in order to ensure that hospitals and clinics are able to deal with their workloads."

Moving forward, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said it will "concretise and put into practice our plan" with the department of health, of ensuring that there is urgent training and placement of more nurses in the public healthcare sector.

The national union said it believes under-staffing is one of the major causes of "the crisis in the public healthcare sector" after outsourcing, procurement, servicing of medical equipment and human resources. 

"A nurse is forced to be a porter, administrator and caregiver at the same time. The end result of this is an overworked staff and the minimisation of the quality of service delivery. Currently, the public healthcare sector is extremely understaffed yet there is a huge number of funded vacant posts not filled, in this regard, the national union calls for the immediate filling of these vacancies as soon as possible as this has a huge bearing on service delivery," said Saphetha.

On Sunday, Motsoaledi announced that more than 5,300 health worker posts -- clinical professionals and support staff needed throughout South Africa -- are to be filled in January.

Motsoaledi made the announcement on behalf of the National Health Council, a statutory body, which met on Thursday and Friday. 

"The council met to, among others, finalise and operationalise the presidential stimulus package as announced by the President [Cyril Ramaphosa]. This announcement, which will result in the filling of more than 5,300 posts in the health departments of the nine provinces from the beginning of January 2019, in addition to being a product of the presidential stimulus package, is also the implementation of the recommendations of the presidential health summit held a few weeks ago," said Motsoaledi.

"The president had announced the stimulus package to kick-start the economy. With regards to health, he had also stated that there will be a stimulus for health in three areas -- human resources, hospital beds, and hospital linen."

Motsoaledi said shortages in these three areas were acute, especially in human resources, which had declined over the past three years due to severe budget constraints as a result of the poor state of the economy.

"Under-staffing, especially in the provinces, has been cited as one of the major contributing factors which has negatively affected the provision of health care," he said. 

"The appointment of the health workers, which includes a broad spectrum of health professionals, for example registrars, pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, radiographers, specialists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and other allied health professionals, will go a long way towards improving the quality of health care in public health facilities in all the provinces."

The provincial breakdown of the posts is as follows: 

Eastern Cape

- three medical specialists

- 36 medical officers (post-community service doctors)

- 100 enrolled nursing assistants

- 74 enrolled nurses

- 50 pharmacy assistants

- 320 general staff, porters, and mortuary attendants

 Free State

- eight medical specialists

- 13 medical officers (post-community service doctors)

- 43 professional nurses

- 12 enrolled nurses

- 37 enrolled nursing assistants

Gauteng

- 15 medical specialists

- 10 registrars (medical specialists in training)

- 20 medical officers (post-community service doctors)

- 40 specialist professional nurses

- 245 professional nurses

- 75 enrolled nurses

- 100 porters

- 100 general assistants

- eight occupational therapists

- eight physiotherapists

- 10 pharmacists

- 10 pharmacy assistants

- 10 radiographers

- 10 social workers

- eight clinical psychologists

KwaZulu-Natal

- 97 registrars (medical specialists in training)

- 150 enrolled nurses

- 150 enrolled nursing assistants

- 50 pharmacy assistants

- 15 artisans

- 160 porters

- 160 general assistants

Limpopo

- 16 medical specialists

- 227 medical officers (post-community service doctors)

- eight pharmacists

- 309 professional nurses

- 14 dentists

- 57 allied health professionals

- four clinical psychologists

- six clinical associates

Mpumalanga

- two medical specialists

- three registrars (medical specialists in training)

- 44 medical officers (post-community service doctors)

- 40 enrolled nurses

- 60 general staff, cleaners, and information officers

Northern Cape

- one medical specialist

- 10 professional nurses

Western Cape

- three medical specialists

- eight registrars (medical specialists in training)

- nine medical officers (post-community service doctors)

- 42 professional nurses

- 25 enrolled nurses

- two pharmacists

- 16 pharmacy assistants

- 40 artisans

- six forensic pathologists

North West

- 20 medical specialists

- 28 registrars (medical specialists in training)

- 28 medical officers (post-community service doctors)

- three pharmacists

- 42 pharmacy assistants

- 45 professional nurse specialists

- 25 professional nurses

- 107 enrolled nurses

- 12 clinical associates

- four radiotherapists

- four dieticians

- two social workers

- 272 information officers

- 145 EMS personnel

- five engineers

- 19 artisans

- seven architects

- 385 administrative clerks

- 73 porters

- 248 general assistants

- 52 drivers

- 525 cleaners

- 75 laundry staff

- six mortuary assistants

- 84 food aides

- six programme managers

Professionals interested in these posts were advised to communicate with the various provincial health department heads (HODs), said Motsoaledi.

African News Agency (ANA)