Covid-19: KZN nurses stranded in Western Cape


Nurses told by agencies that they can’t be booked because they are not covered should they contract coronavirus at work

Photo of nurses march
Locum nurses who are stuck in the Western Cape say many nurses had left KZN in search for work in other provinces earlier this year. Archive photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

About 150 locum nurses from KwaZulu-Natal who moved to the Western Cape to work at different agencies say they have not been booked for shifts at hospitals since the start of the lockdown. They are asking the government to allow them to travel home as many of them are running out of money to pay rent and buy food.

This comes despite a call by health minister Zweli Mkhize last week, who appealed to all retired nurses and healthcare workers to return to the system to aid in the fight against Covid-19.

Some of the locum nurses we spoke to said they travelled to the Cape from areas like Umlazi, Greytown and Pietermaritzburg at the end of February. They only worked for a month before the agencies they were employed under cancelled all of their shifts. The women refused to name the agencies.

“We are scared we might end up sleeping in the streets,” said Dumazile Mdabe, a professional midwife from Ngonyameni.

“We are appealing to the department to help us arrange transport home. Many of us are stuck and we are jobless. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the agencies cancelled all of our shifts. The agencies were clear that they can’t continue booking us, should we be at risk of contracting the virus because we are not covered. We have run out of food. Some of us have completely nothing to eat,” said Mdabe.

She said many nurses had left KZN in search for work in other provinces. “As a result, we are staying in rental homes. The landlords will evict us and we will end up on the streets. On top of it, we are hungry. Some of us have nothing to eat,” said Mdabe.

Thandiwe Mkhize from Pietermaritzburg said she wants to go home to bury her sister who died on Thursday.

“I’m the eldest at home. I have to be at the forefront of the funeral arrangements. The police asked me to get a death certificate and the ward councillor’s letter. I’m unable to do that. Everything is on standstill. I really want to go home to bury my sister,” she said.

Western Cape Department of Health spokesperson Mark van der Heever advised that the nurses call the department’s Call Centre for assistance.

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TOPICS:  Covid-19 Health

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