Eastern Cape Health ends contracts of over 600 nurses while its hospitals remain understaffed
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Johannesburg - More than 600 nurses in the Eastern Cape have allegedly been left jobless despite the gripping effects of Covid19 on health-care facilities in the province.
The nurses were on a 12-month contract that commenced at the beginning of last year. January 31 marked their last day as intern nurses across the province’s health-care facilities.
Some of the nurses filled in for older nurses who had underlying conditions, while others were dispatched to Covid-19 wards. One of the nurses, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she was a team leader at a hospital.
“I was working independently, I would delegate tasks to others and oversee medication given to patients. I would also be responsible for calling the doctors and maintaining the flow of communication,” she said.
The nurse said they were told that there was no money from the Treasury to appoint them on a permanent basis.
“We were totally surprised to hear such because doctors, radiographers and physiotherapists were also on internship contracts but it seems like they got permanent contracts even before their intern contracts expired.”
Another nurse said the department was failing the people of the province and the ever-growing number of ailing patients at health-care facilities.
“Most of the senior nurses cannot deal with the demand of Covid-19 because of the chronic illness they have. So releasing us just like that leaves a lot to be desired.”
The nurse claimed that they were understaffed and had to work alone on certain shifts, caring for a minimum of 11 critically ill patients.
“For some of us, it has never been about money, this is what we studied for and helping patients during this difficult period in the country was our priority.”
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in the Eastern Cape said it felt that nurses were not taken seriously by the Department of Health.
“The nurses have worked as frontline workers during the pandemic and risked their lives tirelessly, and have experienced the burden that is within the hospitals and the shortage of staff.”
Denosa, however, noted that there were other interns who had received appointment letters, while others had been told to wait until April.
The organisation said it had consulted its mother body, which was attending to the matter and awaiting a response. The organisation has promised that after receiving a response, action will be taken.
“Action that we wish to take is that of going to Bhisho and stage a sit-in where we would stress our demands. We are not willing to wait until April, money must be borrowed from other departments to fund us.”
The Eastern Cape has a total of 3 080 Covid-19 cases, with 10 713 deaths reported in the province, while the number of recoveries sits at 178 325.
The Eastern Cape Department of Health could not provide a response at the time of going to publication.