The government is set to hire more than 5,000 health workers, including doctors and nurses, to ease the crisis in public healthcare facilities across the country. The Mercury reports that this has been confirmed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Motsoaledi was speaking after a two-day meeting with the National Health Council when he announced that the posts are part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s stimulus package.
“The health workforce has been diminishing because of economic problems. Provinces were not filling their posts; they were not even filling those which were vacated because health budgets were cut,” Motsoaledi said.
The minister is quoted in the report as saying the government would employ additional healthcare workers across the country, including nurses, doctors, pharmacy assistants, general staff, porters and mortuary attendants. The appointment of new staff is also in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Health Summit held at the end of October.
“Understaffing, especially in the provinces, has been cited as one of the major contributing factors which has negatively affected the provision of healthcare. The appointment of the health workers, which includes a broad spectrum of health professionals, including registrars, pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, radiographers, specialists, psychologists, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals, will go a long way towards improving the quality of healthcare in public health facilities in all the provinces,” Motsoaledi said.
Faced with staff shortages, overcrowding and lack of equipment, Gauteng Health will receive only 341 of the posts which will include 245 professional nurses, 40 specialist nurses and 20 community services doctors among others.
The report says ailing North West Health will get the bulk of hires with 2,000 new posts, filling 50% of their vacancies. Ramaphosa placed North West Health under administration in May and appointed a team, under the leadership of Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Motsoaledi said: “One of the reasons we put them under Section 100 is because the shortage there was huge. In fact, that 2,000 is sort of filling 50% of their vacancies. They were definitely struggling.” According to the breakdown, North West will hire 525 cleaners, 385 administrative clerks, 145 emergency services personnel and 107 enrolled nurses.
Over the past three years, the Health Department lost R9bn in budget cuts, which led provinces not to fill vacant posts, the minister said.
Motsoaledi said while this move will be helpful for rural health facilities, it will also be a welcome break for overworked staff at urban hospitals. “Some of the most suffering is at urban hospitals because whenever there is trouble, people migrate from local to urban hospitals. People are voting with their feet and going to the big hospitals. For instance, the neonatal wards in Gauteng are 132% full. The nurses who are there cannot deal with those numbers. They are breaking their backs and we need to inject more workers,” the minister said.
The report says KwaZulu-Natal Health will get nearly 800 new workers, including 300 enrolled and enrolled nursing assistants, and 320 porters and general assistants.
Meanwhile, virtually all South Africa’s newly qualified nurses have been placed in public sector posts for 2019, Business Day reports MPs have been assured. In contrast to the last-minute scramble to find positions for new nurses in previous years, the process of placing nurses who qualified in 2018 has gone smoothly, according to the Health Department’s chief operating officer, Gail Andrews.
A total of 3,535 nurses qualified in 2018, of whom 3,470 had already been placed, she told parliament’s portfolio committee on health. South African nurses have been given priority, and the handful of nurses who have not been offered posts in the public sector are foreigners who are studying in South Africa, she said.
All 248 bursary holders from Limpopo have been placed in posts in the province, she said. Bursary holders are required to work for a period in the province that funded their studies.
The department’s chief nursing officer, Nonhlanha Makhanya, briefed MPs on ongoing reforms to nursing qualifications, and the rationalisation of nursing colleges.
Nursing colleges fall under the jurisdiction of provincial health departments, which determine their five-year enrolment plans based on their needs and the available resources.
The report quotes Makhanya as saying that following several years of re-organisation, each province now has a single nursing college with satellite campuses, and the nursing schools previously located in hospitals are being converted into clinical training units or sub-campuses. The South African Military Health Services also runs a nursing college.
From 2020, a new three-year diploma in general nursing will be offered by nursing colleges. This will be the entry-level nursing qualification, and students can obtain advanced diplomas in skills such as midwifery or oncology. Studies that lead to qualifying as an enrolled nurse or staff nurse will not be offered after 2019. Makhanya said general nurses will be more highly skilled than enrolled and staff nurses, and will not require supervision from more senior nursing staff.
In line with legislative requirements, Motsoaledi has formally requested the higher education and training minister to declare the nursing colleges as public higher education colleges, she said. All the provinces except Northern Cape have already submitted their programmes for accreditation with the Council for Higher Education, she said.
Makhanya said universities are also revising their nursing curriculums to meet the requirements of the new nursing qualifications.