The decision by Gauteng Health to cancel the intake of student nurses at some nursing colleges has been strongly criticsed by the Democratic Alliance and trade unionists.
The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) has rejected the ‘abrupt, irresponsible’ decision by Gauteng Health to cancel the intake of student nurses at some Gauteng nursing colleges. The Citizen reports that YNITU said that prospective student nurses were scheduled to commence their four-year training programme leading to a diploma in nursing – general, community, psychiatry, and midwifery – from 15 January.
These students had completed and satisfied the stringent selection process conducted from May to December 2017 by the department’s central selection centre. The selection process included academic scoring qualification criteria, psychometric tests, interviews, and medical surveillance.
Initially 1,020 students were expected for the 2018 intake, but the numbers were later reduced to 700 due to alleged budgetary constraints, and “now the bizarre no-intake announcement”.
YNITU cautioned the department that an expectation was created for these students which led to most resigning from their previous employment and those from matric declining other study opportunities.
The report says YNITU demanded that the department reconsider the decision and called on all successful candidates to starts “with their studies as planned”. Training of nurses was a priority in addressing staff shortages and in the improvement in the quality of care communities received, YNITU said.
Jack Bloom, Democratic Alliance Gauteng Shadow Health MEC writes on the Politicsweb site: “I am hugely concerned that 700 nursing candidates will not be able to study for the four-year nursing diploma at three Gauteng nursing colleges because the Gauteng Health Department cannot afford to fund their studies.
“This is despite the fact that they were informed that they qualified for the course but in December last year were told not to report to the colleges ‘until further notice’.
“According to department spokesperson Lesemang Matuka, the department cannot afford the R57m that is required to fund first year students, so the colleges will only admit first-year students with external bursaries or those who can afford to pay the fees themselves.
“The three affected institutions are the Ann Latsky, Chris Hani Baragwanath and SG Lourens nursing colleges.
“This is a cruel blow to poor students who passed the selection process but are now left out in the cold with no other study options for this year.
“The underfunding of nursing training is most unwise as we are short of trained nurses for our health system. According to the 2016/17 Gauteng Health Annual Report, the current nursing vacancies are as follows: Professional Nurses – 982; Student Professional Nurses – 536; and Staff Nurses – 405.
“The department should urgently reconsider the cancellation of training for first-year nurses which is a priority that should not be sacrificed because of poor budgeting.”
Reacting to the reports, Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said there will be an intake of first-year nursing students, but first the department has to make sure that they will be able to pay for the study materials for these students. The Citizen reports that Ramokgopa, said it is important to share with the public that about 1,000 nurses leave the healthcare services in Gauteng every year.
“So there is no way that we will not take first-year students in. Those students who have already gone through the screening are indeed part of the first group that we will be taking in. It is just a matter of making sure that by the time we take them there are finances available to pay for their bursaries, accommodation and all their training materials. I am also very excited that they will be getting their training material on Ipads this year and we will announce the date when they will start in due course,” Ramokgopa said.
She is quoted as saying that they also have second and third-year students who are currently studying at various institutions. The MEC said part of the training of their nurses is “to make sure we deal with the number of nurses that are leaving the health system”.
“Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system in South Africa and it is an area that is of priority,” Ramokgopa said.