A proposal to train and employ 50,000 new nurses will be one of the flagship projects on the table at the government’s Jobs Summit being held this week. Business Day reports that the two-day initiative is looking for solutions to South Africa’s high unemployment rate, which is near the 30% mark. Business, labour and government officials are expected to pore over proposals that include job creation opportunities in industries such as agriculture.
The report says the Jobs Summit comes as Stats SA revealed that South Africa shed 69,000 jobs during the second quarter of 2018, when the economy tipped into a recession following two quarters of negative economic growth.
The report says the proposal to train and employ new nurses emanates from private hospital group Netcare, which this week confirmed that the concept would be tabled at the summit convened by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The private sector will provide on-the-job training over eight years if the project is pursued. South Africa is short of 47,000 nurses.
Ramaphosa announced recently that he had instructed Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to urgently fill 2,200 nursing vacancies as part of the government’s R50bn economic recovery package.
The report says Netcare’s project was developed in 2016 as part of the CEO Initiative, which included youth unemployment as a focus, when it submitted a training proposal to address the shortage of nurses by providing employment to 50,000 unemployed people.
“The proposal is based on a collaborative approach between government, organised labour, community and the private sector, with all regulatory bodies working together to achieve this much-needed outcome,” the company said. “It is envisaged that, once funding has been secured, this initiative will be provided at the cost of delivering such training, with no profit or margin built in.”
Nceba Ndzwayiba, GM of enterprise and supplier development at Netcare, is quoted in the report as saying: “We contemplated a joint initiative between the government and private sector to achieve this.”
The project was proposed at the National Economic Development and Labour Council – a consultative structure for government, business, labour and community organisations – through Business Unity SA.
Ndzwayiba said the cost of such a project was “nuanced – it’s not very simple”. He said there was a pool of unemployed nurses and the private sector had vacancies to absorb these nurses. “We needed to understand what are the challenges and barriers to get these nurses into employment.”
Prior research undertaken by the South African Nursing Council also alluded to cohorts of nurses and nursing assistants who had qualified in the 2014/2015 period, with a number of them remaining unemployed despite an indication from the Health Department that there was a shortage in the profession. These nurses would have to be taught additional skills and nurses currently registered would also have to be educated and promoted to become specialist nurses.
Another group of nurses were those trained by “fly-by-night” schools. These were not necessarily illegal schools but those who emerged from them might require proper training. “We are saying those people are already demonstrating commitment to be in the profession,” Ndzwayiba said. “We are hoping the funding model would be informed by the solution we finally adopt.” He said the costing model in the public and private health sectors and Setas was not standardised.
According to the report, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) said it had been disappointed by former president Jacob Zuma’s undertaking to fill nursing vacancies and hoped Ramaphosa’s efforts would come to fruition. Zuma, in his 2011 state of the nation address, promised to revive closed nursing colleges within three years. “Which until today never saw light of day,” said Denosa spokesperson Sibongiseni Delihlazo.
Denosa hoped the government would reopen nursing training colleges, Delihlazo said. In 2015 the country needed to produce 11,000 professional nurses but colleges and universities trained only 4,000 that year. The organisation said it took a long time for nurses who had retired or resigned to be replaced in the public sector. “This leads to more frustration and bottle-necking in health care, where long queues are the order of the day. Putting a moratorium on the appointment of critical health-care professionals by provinces was always going to put quality health care into serious trouble.”
The report says South Africa has also lost many health-care professionals to countries such as the UK, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia, where there is higher pay and better working conditions.Business Day report