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Nurses want adequate working conditions, fair remuneration, appreciation for long shifts

Panellists during the International Nurses Day 2022 commemoration at the CSIR Convention Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Panellists during the International Nurses Day 2022 commemoration at the CSIR Convention Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 13, 2022

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Pretoria - Adequate working conditions, fair remuneration, and appreciation for the long hours put into their shifts are what nurses celebrating International Nurses’ Day are asking for.

As the global community looked to honour and celebrate the annual International Nurses’ Day yesterday, nurses young and old have pleaded for the profession to be more respected and provided with better working conditions.

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Nurse Tsakane Joyce Selesho, who started her career in 1975 and officially retired last year, said that despite her years of experience working in hospitals in Limpopo and Gauteng, being a nurse during the Covid-19 pandemic was the scariest and most difficult part of her career as they were at the centre of it all.

Selesho said although she was now retired, she felt that she was leaving the profession in no better state as many nurses were still not being appreciated by the communities they served, or the government.

She said that while they stood for the values of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, unlike Nightingale many of them were not born into wealthy families.

“Florence Nightingale started the profession for the love of the profession, and not the money, and even today no one is paying us what we are worth because Nightingale, although I love her, she was not a negotiator for money. I am in this profession because I love it. However, the sad truth is that we are not appreciated nearly enough for the time and years we invest in studying and equipping ourselves in this field.”

The president of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, Simon Hlungwani, speaking at a commemoration event at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Silverton, Pretoria, said that in order to help nurses and other healthcare professionals, governments and international organisations had to turn global strategy into meaningful local action, and improve clinical practice on the ground.

Hlungwani said even recent reports had shown that investment in nursing was needed now if any country were to meet the healthcare challenges of the future.

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Waheed Hoose, the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa’s general secretary, said this year’s theme, “Nurses: A voice to lead – Invest in Nursing and respect rights to secure global health”, could not be more appropriate as the South African government had decided to slash budget allocation for the Department of Health by close to 2% over the next two financial years.

Hoosen said the union was shocked by the lack of investment in nursing and the health sector.

“The union honours all nurses for their bravery and for working under very difficult conditions at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but to show appreciation for their bravery, the government needs to invest more in this profession,” said Hoosen.

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