“We are overwhelmed,” says nurse at Steve Biko Academic Hospital

Nurses march to demand better working conditions and more staff

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Nurses affiliated to the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union marched to the national Department of Health and Treasury in Pretoria on Wednesday, demanding better working conditions and more staff. Photo: Chris Gilili

Nurses and workers affiliated to the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union marched to the national Department of Health and Treasury’s offices in Pretoria on Wednesday. They want better working conditions and they want permanent employment for nurses hired during the Covid pandemic.

Noni Ledwaba, a nursing sister at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, said there are only five nurses at night, exacerbating their already burdened workload.

“We want the health department to provide extra hands for us. They must employ more nurses. We are overwhelmed. During the pandemic some operations were stopped and now they are continuing and there is a strenuous backlog,” she said.

Ledwaba said resources were so stretched at the hospital that patients often had to sleep on beds without any linen. “There are no bandages or sutures.” She said the department must make money available to address the crisis.

In their memorandum of demands, the nurses asked that the department’s budget be increased and that workers hired during the pandemic be employed. They also want the department to fund further education and training of registered nurses.

Union president Rich Sicina said, “We want the national Department of Health to permanently absorb all Covid-19 contracted workers. We also are calling for the permanent employment of community service nurses.”

The Department of Health’s Maile Ngake accepted the marchers’ memo and promised that the Health Minister’s office would respond within seven days. “We appreciate that the workers have come and alerted us to their grievances. Sometimes we are not aware of how much the workers are suffering on the ground.”

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TOPICS:  Health

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