Protest ends with EC Health ordered to fill 500 nursing posts

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A sleep-in protest by unemployed Eastern Cape nurses has been called off after the provincial Premier Phumulo Masualle instructed the Eastern Cape Health to advertise 500 nursing posts by the end of next week.

Once filled, they will go a long way to addressing staff shortages in some of the Eastern Cape’s health facilities, says a Daily Dispatch report.

The directive by Masualle comes after 150 unemployed nurse graduates took to sleeping outside the provincial health department’s Dukumbana House offices in Bhisho last week as a protest to demand permanent employment. Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the directive followed an urgent meeting between Health MEC Phumza Dyantyi and Masualle.

The report say the move has had the desired result – the unemployed nurses have agreed to call off their protest and return home while they wait for the human resources processes to unfold.

Provincial government spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga said although the mandate for the employment of nurses rested with individual hospitals, the premier had prioritised those involved in the protest.

Mbananga said Masualle had met with the group of unemployed workers last week. “He immediately attended to them to find out their grievances. Upon finding out their reasons for being at the gate, he promised to meet with the health MEC Phumza Dyantyi to find solutions at a meeting which happened yesterday,” Mbananga said.

Mbananga said the premier had pleaded with the group to return home while human resources processes unfolded, but this was met with resistance. “All employment processes need time and two months has been dedicated to the employment of these nurses. For them to stay in Bhisho for the entire duration of the period, sleeping outside, is a position the premier advised against,” Mbananga said.

According to the report, the unemployed nurses’ provincial chair, Thembinkosi Qwakanisa, said they had since called off their protest action because of Masualle’s directive. Qwakanisa said the commitment by the department and premier had strict timelines that made them comfortable about returning home and waiting out the employment process.

Kupelo, who said last week that the department had staff shortages in its health facilities but that addressing such shortages depended on the availability of funds, said the department would advertise the 500 posts as directed by the premier. However, he stressed that the nurses would still have to apply for the posts that would be advertised.

Daily Dispatch report

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