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Invest in nursing to avoid losing qualified SA nurses overseas – unions

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Denosa said these challenges are pushing nurses to leave the profession or migrate to high-income countries. The union has called on the government to invest in nursing to avoid a loss of skills. Photo: Getty Images

NEWS


Lack of workplace safety, underpayment and understaffing, which have led to poor well-being and burnout among nurses, are some of the challenges highlighted by the Democratic Nursing Organization of SA (Denosa) as the country celebrated International Nurses Day on Thursday.

Denosa said these challenges are pushing nurses to leave the profession or migrate to high-income countries. The union has called on the government to invest in nursing to avoid a loss of skills.

Meanwhile, the Indaba Young Nurses Union (YNITU) has called on all nurses to boycott the celebrations as the profession is under attack.

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Kwena Manamela, acting general secretary of Denosa, said funding for nursing education was falling, with universities and colleges producing fewer nurses while demand in clinics and hospitals increased.

“Although higher education institutions are producing fewer nurses for health facilities, even the few who are produced, many remain unemployed for years and stay at home with their essential skills. As a result, health facilities face glaring staff shortages that cripple the quality of service delivery. Many facilities, like in the North Cape, are drastically reducing operating hours due to the shortage,” Manamela said.

He said emigration was the biggest threat to nursing and health services, especially in low-income countries. He called for a strong nurse retention strategy in South Africa to avoid a mass exodus of qualified and experienced nurses.

Manamela said:

As a union, we can confirm that many nurses have long since begun to inquire about the possibilities of working abroad. Additionally, European recruitment agencies are setting up their bases in South Africa, to facilitate and speed up the process of channeling nurses.

“All of these issues point to a leadership void in nursing. The lack of coordinated nursing leadership within the government framework becomes counterproductive for the country in terms of health services.

YNITU General Secretary Lerato Mthunzi said the education, training and development of nurses had come to a screeching halt.

“For five years, the SA Nursing Council (SANC) and the Council for Higher Education had failed to deliver a progressive program that would allow nurses to advance their careers. They still say they need more time to provide enough detail on the scope and depth to address the articulation of a four-year diploma and a one-year diploma in midwifery,” Mthunzi said.

She said nursing was not a luxury or a privilege that should only be given to the chosen few. There was a need to improve the quality of nursing care provided to patients.

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The union demanded that the SANC “expedite the alignment and articulation of a four-year degree and do not believe downgrading to NQF 6 will be accepted by the nursing fraternity.”

“Nurses have been hailed as heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic but they have received no recognition in terms of pay rises. The glaring shortages of all categories of healthcare workers – nurses in particular – have led to worrying job cuts. Nurses are burnt out and tired, which has a negative impact on the quality of nursing care they provide. Unfortunately, it is the poor black majority who suffer the consequences of this system of neglected health,” Mthunzi said.


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