NEHAWU Statement On International Nurses Day

NEHAWU Statement On International Nurses Day

Thursday May 12, 2022

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] joins millions of nurses across the world in celebrating International Nurses Day which is celebrated annually on the 12th May. This year’s celebration is observed under the theme “Nurses: A voice to lead – invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health”.

As we observe this day, NEHAWU takes this moment to pay tribute to the gallant nurses across the country, we salute their relentless, combative and brave contribution to the noble cause of saving and preserving the health and lives of our people. Nurses continue to play a critical role in health promotion, disease prevention and delivering primary and community care. They provide healthcare and are important to the achievement of universal health coverage.

We are observing this year’s international nurses day under worsening socio-economic conditions of worsening unemployment, poverty and inequality with South Africa ranked the most unequal society in the world. This is as a result of the government implementing neoliberal macroeconomic policies which have led to social inequalities, deindustrialisation, austerity, privatisation, and has destroyed the capacity of the state to deliver social services such as Health.

The health system generally is confronted by a myriad of challenges across, ranging from the poor management of hospitals and clinics, emergency services, forensic pathology, capacity of districts in driving primary health care delivery, inability to account for finances by state-aided hospitals, failure to deploy resources for the speedily implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) to guarantee universal access to health for all citizens of this country.

As if this was not enough, this year the Treasury increased tax subsidies to support the users of the private healthcare (members of medical aid schemes), whilst cutting budget allocations to public healthcare. This means that the Treasury is prepared to forgo more than R60 billion a year with these subsidies, that is enjoyed by only 16% of the population, in order to prop up the business of the profiteering three private health monopolies, whilst public healthcare is now stretched to the breaking point.

The investment in healthcare is not satisfactory, infact there has been a budget cuts for District Health Services, cutting the budget for HIV, TB, Malaria and Community Outreach by a shocking 3.4% over the medium-term. This means that our Nurses, who have been in the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 are abandoned and shall continue to be subjected to deplorable conditions.

As a result of the budget cuts in health, and the non-filling of the vacancies in terms of the 2030 Human Resources for Health Strategy, the country will not be able to address the issues of understaffing in our healthcare system which is detrimental to the objectives of providing universal healthcare. In terms of the current Human Resources Strategy for the Health Sector: 2030, the National Department of Health (NDOH) states that ‘an additional 97 000-health workers, with CHWs comprising around one third’ would be required by 2025.

In this regard, the government should invest in the Health Workforce and this includes amongst others employment of more health workers [nurses, doctors, CHWs etc] in order to have an effective and functional health system.

Equally, the Department of Health must prioritise the skilling, capacitating, educating and training of nurses to ensure that adequate and efficient nursing services are delivered in order to meet the health needs of our people and qualitative support for better health sector. This must be linked with the transformation of the South African Nursing Council for the purpose of improving working conditions and increased access to quality education for all nurses in the country.

Lastly, as we observe this day, we reaffirm our commitment to fight relentless for the implementation of NHI. In February, we presented NEHAWU’s submission in Parliament on the National Health Insurance Bill and in the course of this year the bill is supposed to be adopted and subsequently signed by the President. This legislation is meant to create an enabling platform for the transformation of the country’s healthcare system, including the private sector. We will continue to wage a struggle in defence of collective bargaining which central is the improvement of conditions of service of healthcare workers and the rest of the workforce in the public service. The rights of nurses must be protected and defended.

Forward to International Nurses Day!!!


Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968;
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969;
Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email:

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