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Scapegoating and attack on downtrodden clinic nurses by Nelson Mandela Health District management and the community they service as a result of failing healthcare system

As Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy and deeply saddened by the premature death of 2 youths aged 20 and 18 years following their visits to the following Public Healthcare Facilities that is Lunga Kobese Clinic and Booysen’s Park Clinic in Port Elizabeth.

YNITU is very disturbed by the manner in which the Local Newspaper reported about Lunga Kobese Clinic incident, where a 20-year-old pupil died following his visit to the afore-mentioned Healthcare Facility.

The report is adding fuel to the fire, the relations between the Community Members and Clinic Staff is so strained and that is chronic and the District Management is aware of it. The report is so biased the Nurses’ version of the story is deliberately omitted.

The incident reports have been written and sent to the District Management about the manner in which that Community is so rude and abusive towards nurses, insulting and threatening them on a daily basis as a result of lack of resources both human and pharmaceutical (medical equipment).

On Monday (19.6.17) the patient in question visited the facility after having defaulted his treatment since April 2017 and was so sick warranting an admission to a Hospital which specialises in his Medical Condition but the patient vehemently refused admission to hospital for 24 -hour surveillence and care until he becomes better, stating that he’s busy with mid-year examinations at school.

The nurse’s hands were then tied as she’s not supposed to force the patient when refusing treatment.

The only thing she did was to advise and encourage the patient to take his medication regularly daily and to come to the facility anytime when he notices that his condition is deteriorating.

Unfortunately on the day the Condition worsened or the day that patient died on the 22.6.17 the nurse who advised the patient about admission to hospital was booked off-sick by a Medical Doctor and has followed the Sick Leave Policy.

She only learnt about the death of the patient on Local Newspaper (The Herald).

She was further surprised when she was served with a threatening letter from the District Manager (Maureen Botha) who gave her an ultimatum that she should report on duty on Monday the 26.6.17 disregarding the fact that she’s sick and on sickleave.

The bottom-line is that the Nurses at Lunga Kobese Clinic are exposed to a very hostile and unsafe environment yet according to Occupational Health & Safety Act 5 Of 1993,
8.1 “Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees”.

Clearly the above-mentioned Act is contravened by Nelson Mandela Health District.
At one stage last year the thugs hijacked another patient ‘s car at this facility at gun point and the Nurses verbalised their genuine concerns for their Safety and their vehicles, the District Management responded by giving them a very sarcastic and inhumane response saying they haven’t employed cars so they must leave their cars at home and travel to work by public transport and they should go back to work because no one is injured or dead.

There are chronic staff shortages and pharmaceutical supplies including equipment in this facility and many others in Nelson Mandela Health District and the Nurses cannot cope with heavy workloads.

Currently at Lunga Kobese Clinic the Cleaner is on Annual Leave and the Pharmacist Assistant is on Maternity Leave and there are no replacements for these Workers so the nurses start their day by doing non-nursing activities i.e sweeping and mopping the floors before focusing on nurses’ duties and on top dispense Medication courtesy of Minister of Health ‘s task-shifting where a downtrodden professional nurse is overworked and underpaid compelled to do the duties of other Healthcare Professionals in Primary Healthcare Sector e.g doctors, pharmacists, social workers, clerks, cleaners, porters etc.

The patients are subjected to long waiting time in Healthcare Facilities resulting in frustrations and insults calling nurses names and threatening to assault nurses.

The above ugly scenario is aggravated by the Ward Councillor of that area and a political deployee at District Office who have a tendency of speaking ill of Nurses in public gatherings, saying the patients/community is right by being rude and abusive towards Nurses because Nurses are paid as a result of the patients.

This is so funny because nurses are taxpayers too so they contribute to the provision of free Healthcare Service in this country and moreover nurses studied through Colleges and Universities to acquire their qualifications just like any other graduates from tertiary institutions.

Lunga Kobese Clinic nurses are so traumatised by constant abuse and victimisation/exploitation levelled against them by District Management and the Community they provide with Healthcare Service.

They also say they are so demotivated, depressed and very scared of that Community which protested 2 days ago as a result of a pupil who died on 22.6.17.

They further said are prepared to resign than subjecting themselves to that stressful and hostile working environment with resultant psychosomatic illnesses including depression, insomnia, nightmares, hypertension and peptic ulcers.

As a Trade Union which is very concerned and passionate about provision of quality healthcare and about the safety and wellbeing of Nurses we therefore demand that;
1.Lunga Kobese Clinic be closed with immediate effect.
2. The District Management to stop bullying and victimising those nurses
3.To allocate those nurses in facilities where their services will be appreciated.
4.The Community which is serviced by that Clinic to be chanelled to neighbouring clinics.
5.Most importantly the Dept must stop making Nurses scapegoats and seriously address the problem of chronic staff shortages/supplies and lastly to improve the working conditions and salaries of Primary Healthcare Nurses in particular ex-municipal nurses who are demoted to the level of General Nurses in terms of salaries though they’re specialist nurses (Community Healthcare Nurses as prescribed in OSD Policy).


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