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By Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

Nurses to picket outside Gauteng Health Department

Temp nurses and health care staff contracts will not be renewed.

Medical workers will be putting down their needles and raising placards tomorrow, in protest against the the Gauteng Department of Health’s (GDoH) decision not to renew temporary nursing posts.

The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) will be staging a demonstration at GDoH on Wednesday, 16th March.

The protest comes almost a week since the GDoH said it cannot afford to renew 8,000 temporary nursing posts created at the peak of the pandemic.

This will begin to take effect by the end of this month.

YNITU said apart from the 8000 temporary nurses posts that will be terminated, thousands of healthcare workers including nurses and support staff have been on contract for years, without those positions evolving to permanent posts.

Staff part of the government Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) will also be affected by hospital staff cuts.

The EPWP program has helped a lot of young black South Africans to gain employment. 

“Terminating their contracts is not just barbaric, it is also evil,” said YNITO general secretary Lerato Mthunzi.

“Nurses who were employed under Covid-19 contracts played a vital role in curbing unnecessary Covid related deaths and their presence has strengthened our health care system, curbing fatigue and disgruntlement caused by work overload,” Mthunzi added.

Health care workers as essential service providers risked their lives during peak periods of Covid-19 and worked around the clock to save people’s lives from the deadly virus. 

“They were praised as heroes by the government, but, when one looks at the salaries of workers, it is disgraceful what they are being paid,” said Mthunzi. 

Despite thousands of nurses being employed under temporary contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic, hospitals were still experiencing staff shortages. 

The union said chronic nurse shortages have sentenced health care workers to permanent poverty and frustrating career stagnation.

Historically, in South Africa, hospitals used to have their own nursing colleges training their own nurses, a practice that really curbed the gross shortage of staff the system is facing today. 

“With the ever-increasing population, the burden of disease and care is also skyrocketing, but what is truly shocking is that there is no political will to deal decisively with this issue by building more training facilities to respond to the demands of the growing population,” said Mthunzi. 

“For example, there are only four Nursing colleges in Gauteng. 

“Taking into consideration the fact that universities produce less than 6% of nursing professionals, the province is surely going to continue to experience serious service delivery problems as far as nursing care.” 

“It becomes worse when after sending them to nursing institutions, the department then selfishly decides to discard them even in the midst of gross staff shortages,” said Mthunzi.

YNITU views this move by GDoH not to employ community health care workers permanently as a higher form of oppression and it symbolizes barbaric colonial and apartheid behaviour in a democratic dispensation. 

“We demand the absorption of post Community Service professional nurses to permanent posts! Coronavirus has exposed in the most glaring way the divisions and inequalities that are destroying our society, with more than 60% of youth unemployment in our country,” Mthunzi concluded. 

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