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2018 Media Statements

NEHAWU Celebrates 2018 International Nurses Day

Friday May 11, 2018

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] joins the global community in celebrating the 2018 International Nurses Day which is celebrated annually on the 12th May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. This year the day is commemorated under the theme “Nurses a Voice to Lead – Health is a Human right”.

As we commemorate nurses day, NEHAWU would like to extend its gratitude and appreciation to all south African nurses for their commitment and efforts in ensuring a sustainable healthcare system that is responsive to the needs of the our citizens against all odds. The national union would like to raise the following issues as part of this year celebrations:

On education and training of nurses

While there is a large number of unemployed nurse graduates in South Africa, staff shortages continue to have a large bearing on the nursing workforce who are entrusted with the responsibility of being the vehicle of championing the revitalisation the healthcare system. The department of health is in the midst of engineering Primary healthcare system to realise its goal in the eradication of disease and improving the lifespan of South African citizens by 2030. The department have however failed to invest in Nursing education and Training and this has resulted in inadequacy of skilled workforce that will be responsive to the healthcare needs and further be evenly distributed to communities that are identified to be in need of such services.

It is very unfortunate that nursing remains the most underrated profession, this being manifested by the attitude demonstrated by the department in ensuring that funds are invested in nursing education and Training and that nurses are receiving a deserved attention and recognition when departmental funds are being distributed. Nurses must also be involved in the decision making that seeks to direct and regulate nursing education and training. The call for the radical transformation of the South African Nursing Council, as echoed in the 2009 nursing summit, must not fall into deaf ears as it has a huge bearing on the nursing standards, career development and advancement, and will immensely motivate and change the nurses attitudes toward the nursing profession.

The attitude demonstrated towards nursing education and training, by the Department of Health, has resulted in the current situation where nurses have resorted to fund their own education as a sign of eagerness and anxiety to attain career advancement. Sadly, even after nurses have obtained their qualification through self-funding, the department has failed to translate them to respective ranks. The department is sitting with a number of Nurses who continue to render services to clients without receiving the recognition they deserve by their own employer. A number of nursing posts that have been vacated in the department have not been filled, the nursing education system continue to produce nurses yet the department is not creating employment opportunities for all these graduates.

On nursing practise
It is the responsibility of the employer to create a positive practice environment for its employees, lack of which will result in the inability to achieve the desired service delivery standards in all service points within the Department of Health. Nurses are the fore front in rendering care to clients and patients in need. The conditions under which nurses are expected to practice have a large influence on the nursing attitudes and performance. Nurses are not provided with the adequate tools of trade to assist them to carry out their respective tasks safely. They are forced to use what is available to render services to clients which appears to be suboptimal to the clients. They are first to be blamed when the desired standards are not met and complaints ensue and they receive minimal support or no support at all from their superiors. Nurses face disciplinary actions by their supervisors and the Nursing council for the negligence and omissions that could have been prevented should they have received the support and necessary resources to render services.

The shortage of human resources continue to drain the amount of energy that each nurse must possess to perform their duties efficiently. The workload is getting more and more every day, brain drain and staff attrition is inevitable, yet the expected level of care continues to put more pressure on the remaining workforce. There's is a lot of expectation on the nurses’ part that is not supported by the employers. Nurses are constantly threatened by the very clients and citizens they serve for the poor service delivery by the department of health yet they soldier on and perform their tasks to the best possible of their abilities. Task shifting remains the order of the day, Nurses jump into ambulances and escort critically ill patients to the next level of care where there are no skilled EMS personnel available to accompany patients, in hospitals they perform duties above their scope of practice to compliment shortages in other disciplines. They are expected to work beyond their hours of duty to ensure continuity of scare to clients and to forfeit their lunch breaks, overtime hours worked and sometimes, their entitled leaves to cover for the staff shortages that prevail in their departments neglecting their own families and their social responsibilities. They are often denied the opportunities to further their studies because of staff shortages and eventually denied the opportunities to grow in the profession when their translations are being delayed after obtaining the long awaited qualifications. They do all this to respond to the needs of their clients and yet they remain to be blamed for everything else that goes wrong in the healthcare system.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968;
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969;
Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU Media Liaison Officer) at 082 455 2500
or email: Visit NEHAWU website:

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