MEC for Health, Dr Gwen Ramakgopa, during her visit to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria on Sunday.

THE Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in Gauteng says it will embark on a province-wide campaign to encourage nurses to refrain from doing work that is not within their scope of practice.

According to Denosa, the nurses have become clerks in the absence of clerical staff, cleaners and porters, at the expense of providing comprehensive, quality patient care.

This follows the visit of Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, against a backdrop of reports of a high mortality rate there. The MEC on Sunday also visited Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria.

More than 1300 newborn babies died at Baragwanath Hospital in the past three years. One patient said that despite the fact that her child was still alive, a doctor pronounced the newborn dead without any examination. Nine hours later, the child was pronounced dead.

During her visit, Ramokgopa said she was committed to prioritising staff shortages.

Denosa Gauteng provincial chairperson, Simphiwe Gada, said he hoped residents in the province would keep the MEC to her word on the staff shortages.

Gada said that the gross shortage of nurses had been glaring, “and our red flag over this long-standing issue has always fallen on deaf ears”.

“We wish this time around the promise by someone in her position is kept, because the shortage of health professionals and support staff in our facilities confront vulnerable patients on a daily basis.

“The shortage of staff at Baragwanath Hospital seriously compromises the quality of healthcare that patients receive at that facility.”

Gada said Denosa had long raised serious concerns about the shortage of nurses where it was found that in critical sections like maternity wards, general nurses just got allocated to work there without skills in midwifery.

“Because our cries for the hiring of nurses and support staff have not been heeded, we will embark on a province-wide campaign where we encourage nurses to refrain from doing work not within their scope of practice. Nurses have become everything in facilities. They have become clerks in the absence of clerical staff, cleaners and porters at the expense of providing comprehensive quality patient care.

“How will they not get frustrated when they are working under such poor conditions daily? How will they get motivated?”

Instead, the focus of the nation was on what had become a glaring symptom of the bigger problem, and that symptom was negative and uncaring attitudes.

“The other focus is on the increasing litigation that the department is suffering from.”

Denosa maintained that for as long as the underlying problem of staff shortages in the province remained unresolved, the symptoms would stay.

“It is just sad that nurses must always take the blame simply because they are the face of the country’s public healthcare system.”