Cape Town - The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in the Western Cape has asked that students not be used to help address a staff shortage in the Health Department.
The organisation said the deployment of students should be dealt with as an offence, and they should be compensated for misutilisation.
Provincial secretary Fanny Ferris said that as several tertiary institutions reopen, “no nursing student should work at Covid-19-designated health facilities, especially Tygerberg and Groote Schuur”.
All nursing students would only be doing practical experience within stipulated clinical placements, Ferris added, and they would at all times be provided with personal protective equipment and Covid-19 training relevant to nursing care.
“Should a student contract the virus from health facilities, they should benefit in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (130 of 1993 as amended) or equal compensation or intervention,” she said.
Ferris said provision of transport for students from campus to their respective destinations were limited and costly, while some bursary stipends had been discontinued during the lockdown.
Denosa provincial chairperson Mxolisi Shange said if tertiary education institutions failed to ensure the safety of students on campuses, they should be held responsible by the Department of Higher Education.
According to Shange and Denosa, some institutions had poor infrastructure and no medical facilities: “Health facilities that cannot provide students with daily screening, necessary personal protective equipment or relevant Covid-19 training should be reported and dealt with.”
He said failure to adhere to lockdown regulations by health-care institutions was an "unforgivable offence".
“We say away with this tendency of using students for cheap labour. Keep our nurses safe,” he added.
According to UCT Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, students who accepted any offer to return to clinical training would be required to comply with several safety conditions and protocols as required by the government and the university.
“One of these is that all returning students must enter a 14-day self-quarantine on arrival at their rooms in residence, or their private accommodation. They will also need to follow protocols for good public health practice.”
Wendy Philander, the DA's provincial spokesperson on health, said: “Nurses are known to work long, hard hours and take care of the most vulnerable in society. There are severe shortages of nurses in South Africa.
“Here in the Western Cape we are extremely grateful to have the highest number of nurses per capita.
"On behalf of the DA in the Western Cape, I wish to express my gratitude to every nurse in our province for their dedication and service, and for the quality care patients receive,” Philander added.