| FREE STATE

No jobs for newly qualified nurses

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Free State Health Department fails to respond to numerous requests for comment

Photo of nurses protesting
The Free State Department of Health has failed to hire nurses it awarded bursaries, leaving them unemployed. Yet their bursary terms require that they work for the province’s health department before they can seek work elsewhere. Photo from Facebook
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Since March, Matulane Mohlanka, a 30-year-old professional nurse, has been unemployed.

Mohlanka received a full-time bursary to train with the Free State Department of Health (FSDOH), she said. After four years of studies and a year of mandatory community service, Mohlanka said the FSDOH was supposed to hire her, along with other nurses who had completed training. However, they have yet to hire her.

Under Mohlanka’s bursary agreement, however, she cannot work elsewhere. The terms require bursary holders to serve the FSDOH after their studies for a set period of time.

“Let us go and work. Our salaries are the only thing we have to offer our families. We spend long hours with patients, and now they are taking away the only thing we have to contribute,” she said.

Mohlanka has a nine-year-old daughter and she is the only one in her family that earns an income, she said.

Mohlanka said she estimates about 250 trained professionals in a similar situation to hers have not been employed by FSDOH. She said that based on terms set by her bursary agreement, she has to serve three years with the province.

“I don’t know whether [they haven’t hired us] to punish us or to prove that we were nothing before they trained us,” she said.

Two other nurses, who both received bursaries to train with FSDOH, also complained that they have not been hired by the department, yet cannot work elsewhere because of the agreement. Both wished to remain anonymous because of potential consequences.

In frustration, Mohlanka helped plan the #HireANurse Twitter campaign, which began on 15 May. The hashtag has been used about 50 times by nine people on Twitter since then, as of 23 May.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the nurses who are unemployed yet trained to work. “Let us scream as loud as we can, ‘South Africa, here we are, qualified but not employed’,” she said.

One tweet read: “Posts were promised as soon as we are registered, now we are, there are no posts. Papadi selo se … #HireANurse”.

Another read: “We cant depend on moonlighting for the rest of our lives …FSDOH should make a decision …. #HireANurse”.

Although she trained to be a nurse, Mohlanka has approached restaurants to find work. She needs to make a living, she said. “What’s the use of sending me to school if you’re not going to employ me?” she asked.

Mohlanka said FSDOH met with her and others on 23 May. The department told her that there were still no spots available to hire her, and if there were, they still might not be able to because of funding issues. The department told her it might relieve her of the bursary terms that restrict her from working elsewhere, she said.

According to FSDOH’s website, obligations for a part-time bursary include serving FSDOH for “one year for every semester paid, to a maximum of three years”. However, another section on the same page reads that the obligations of part-time bursary holders includes serving FSDOH “one year for every year a bursary was granted”. Both full-time and part-time bursary obligations include entering into an agreement with the FSDOH.

As stated on the website, the purpose of the FSDOH bursaries includes the “Creation of Opportunities in [Free State] for development in line with the [Department of Health]”.

“Bursaries are allocated according to the departmental needs,” it reads.

FSDOH did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. GroundUp attempted to reach them via email 18 May, 19 May, 20 May and 23 May. Calls to its communications department went unanswered on 23 May.

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TOPICS:  Health Labour

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Write a letter in response to this article

Letters

Dear Editor

I was also in a similar dilemma as my colleagues in 2015 and had to moonlight at Netcare Midrand to get income. I have a car to pay and family to feed plus my other accounts. This one year community service contract restricts us severely & should be reviewed.

Government has signed several agreements with foreign countries not to poach SA nurses yet they cant hire us. I was also denied release letter by then but have since gotten lucky and found employment at Gauteng Health.

We are not bitter & want to serve our communities.
#HireAnurse

Dear Editor

As a nurse myself, I find it completely senseless and very stupid of the government to use hard-earned tax-payers' money to train nurses and only to throw them at the streets after completing their training. This makes the newly qualified nurses vulnerable, as they will now be captured by the private sector, where their services will benefit only the privileged few.

Day-in-day-out we hear we hear of public hospitals and clinics being short-staffed. Now we can all see why this shortage is not going to end anytime soon. #YoungNursesIndaba therefore calls on employers in the health industry to grab these highly qualified nurses, who are sought-after all over the world.

Dear Editor

The issue of FSDOH not hiring their products did not begin this year. It runs as far back as 2013. The then community service completers went about a full year without employment. The 2014 class tried to fight the system but were offered a temporary situation.

I too spent about two months before working, it seems short but it is only because they needed me more than I needed them as I was working at a rural area and there were no staff except the manager and one registered nurse. But my colleagues in the cities suffered a lot.

Now I'm hired but I'm very tired as the lack of hiring of staff further makes us who are working overloaded. We work unnecessary shifts and at times have to be recalled from leave.

FSDOH should take responsibility and create employment as releasing us is just a temporary remedy.

Dear Editor

I am a fourth year student at the Free State School of Nursing, I was also on a bursary from the Free State Department of Health and subject to the same conditions in the contract.

I fear also being under the same circumstances once I finish my training, beginning with community service which the previous students had to march and picket in order for the department to let them commence at the beginning of the year rather than at a later stage.

The students have to go home with no income and wait for whenever the Free State School of Nursing deems it time for us to earn an income.

After community service we face unemployment. Yet the department via the Free State School of Nursing, trains students year in year out, for what purpose if we only acquire the qualification to stay at home?

Meanwhile patients die due to staff shortages and other situations that could have been prevented had more staff been employed.

Training youths looks good on statistics. A rotten health department is a disgrace!

Dear Editor

I am from North West province which is one of the provinces training nurses and cant appoint them. I was also affected by the same thing.

There is group of student who will be completing their community service on 30 June 2016. Already Dr Ruth Segomotsi of Mompati District wrote letters to all nurses completing on this date that it's their last day as employees of the North West Department of Health. Every six months we have nurses who goes home unappointed.

The hurtful part is that while you are awaiting registration as a professional nurse by the South African Nursing Council, you cant get employment anyway as our our community service diploma stipulates that we shall practice in a certain province. Eg if one is trained in North West one must work in North West. This is a huge restriction to getting employment out of our province until we are registered as professional nurses.

Community service nurses replace each other. Hence the department is not appointing because they save a lot of money.

Dear Editor

It's sad that we are still unemployed. Now we have the new MEC of Health in Free State. Pity he has to come and clean up this mess.