Nurses face endless delays being sent their practising certificates after paying their annual fees and must travel across country to get the certificate and keep their jobs.
The Times reports that the frontline of South Africa’s health system‚ they say the way they re treated by the SA Nursing Council shows that the government does not respect them.
In 2017‚ the annual professional payment system is not yet online and the 220‚000 nurses and 73‚000 nursing assistants must pay via FNB and fax their proof of payment to the office, the report says. Then their certificate is posted to them but many say it never arrives. Nurses‚ who do not receive their licence‚ must travel to the only nursing council office in the country to get it.
Nomsa Hawker‚ who works in Saudi Arabia‚ travelled to Pretoria to pay in person last week. “It is expensive but to save your job‚ you need to do it. It is a pathetic situation. The South African government does not appreciate nurses [even though] we are the pillars of the health system.”
The report says using the number of nurses in the country as recorded on the council website and the annual fees‚ it was established that the council rakes in at least R120m in fees a year but when visiting the council offices hundreds of nurses were found to be queuing for their documents in hot offices with a broken air-conditioner.
Philile Khoza took the day off work to fetch her sister’s licence. Khoza’s sister had travelled to the offices in December from KwaZulu-Natal only to find them closed for holidays. This is despite the fact payment for the year closed on 31st December and many nurses wait for their annual bonus to pay the fee. Khoza’s sister has to pay a fine of R1‚760 for missing payment and has been threatened with losing her state hospital job. Nurses at the offices said they found the fine- exorbitant and didn’t expect that they would have to pay it as usually payment closed in March‚ but last year it closed in December.
The report says one women travelled from Mafikeng to get her licence because she had been told she will lose her job this week without it. She had paid in October‚ but never received her certificate and was unable to reach the council on the phone. The report says calls to the council were unanswered.
Chair of the council Busisiwe Bhengu said nurses did not need to fax proof of payment to the offices but documentation from the council instructs nurses to do this. Bhengu said employees could check if nurses were registered using the electronic register‚ but many nurses are quoted as saying that they were required to have the hard document for their state employees.
Bhengu said: “If they pay way in time‚ the council will not have to post their annual practising certificates in the busiest time for the post office.” She said the council had held outreach days in all provinces making it easier to pay.
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) has commented on the issue saying that some 80‚000 nurses may soon stop paying their practising fees if the SANC does not create better ways to collect this cash, reports The Times. Denosa said its members will march on the offices of SANC and the Department of Health in Pretoria next month‚ demanding a solution. If a solution for the poor servicing of nurses is not found urgently‚ Denosa will urge its 80‚000 members to withhold payment of their 2018 fees.
“Our members are spending so much money‚ energy and time traveling to SANC from all provinces if they are to get their receipt on time‚ which should not be the case in this day and age of technological advancement.”
Denosa suggested SANC deduct its fees directly from the salaries of government employees‚ with permission‚ and demanded the council opens provincial offices. “Lastly‚ the online payment should at least be created as in yesterday‚” it said.
The report says Denosa is also taking SANC on for failing to appoint a permanent registrar since the departure of Tendani Mabuda more than a year ago and for its poor communication channels. “Until this day we have not had any audience with SANC because of absence of leadership‚ not for the lack of trying but there is just no one to talk to – we are sent from pillar to post.
“Our recent requests for a meeting in a form of letters are still unanswered until today. To say we have been frustrated is putting it modestly‚” it said.
The report says SANC presented its plan for a feasibility study for the establishment of regional offices at the South African Nurses Conference a year ago. Denosa said it has made use of its regional offices available to SANC. It is appealing to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to help SANC get its act in order.