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Union shocked that Gauteng spent R32m on Cuban doctors while nurses don’t have uniform

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA says it was was shocked that the Gauteng Health Department had spent over R30 million in acquiring the services of Cuban doctors while the province's nurses were running short of work uniforms. File Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA says it was was shocked that the Gauteng Health Department had spent over R30 million in acquiring the services of Cuban doctors while the province's nurses were running short of work uniforms. File Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

Published Jun 11, 2021

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Johannesburg - The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) said it was shocked that the Gauteng Health Department had spent over R30 million in acquiring the services of Cuban doctors while the province's nurses were running short of work uniforms.

Denosa’s national spokesperson, Sibongiseni Delihlazo, said nurses were forced to wear torn uniforms and, in some instances, had to wear their own clothes to work because they had not been given their uniform allowances.

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Some Denosa provinces had even decided that their members should work in their casual clothes until the government gave them the necessary allowance. Delihlazo said Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal were among the problematic provinces with regard to providing uniforms for nurses.

Despite the inability to provide uniforms to nurses, the Gauteng Health Department took R32.5m out of its HIV/Aids grant to pay 28 Cuban doctors for a year’s service on Covid-related activities, even though there was no local need for them. Their one-year salaries ranged from R858000 for a biostatistician to R1.58m for a specialised medical doctor.

The Star understands that the nurses’ uniform allowance is around R3 000 a year paid at the beginning of April, but most provincial governments were allegedly failing to pay this amount.

“Each year the government has not paid this on April 1. It takes the government around eight months to pay this nurses’ uniform allowance, and there is no plausible reason why they are not doing that,” Delihlazo said.

He said the uniform amount was not enough to buy quality uniforms. The uniform would mainly consist of dark shoes and bottoms with a top, and there was also the option of a navy jersey.

“We have told some of the nurses not to work with the torn uniforms. In most provinces, they have had to make a decision – because it’s cold – that nurses should not wear their uniforms until the money is in their bank accounts. We look unprofessional with a uniform that looks bad,” he said.

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Delihlazo said the treatment of nurses by their employer was responsible for the poor image people have of nurses. He said if there were no problems with resources, then nurses were subjected to poor treatment by their respective departments.

“We are rendering the most important services. Nurses work seven days a week. You see them beautiful today and the next day they look bad, as there is no time for them to get home and wash their uniforms. Then people say nurses are rude, but we work under tough conditions,” Delihlazo said.

The DA’s provincial spokesperson on health, Jack Bloom, described the spending on the Cuban doctors as wasteful expenditure. “This wasteful and misdirected spending was disclosed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the legislature.” Several attempts to contact the Health Department spokesperson for comment proved unsuccessful.

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