There’s no pill for Phaahla’s blunder
In a response to the DA in parliament this week, Dr Joe Phaahla said there were just 22 000 nurses in the whole of South Africa.
FILE: The Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla brief media. Picture: Jacques Nelles
It’s mind-boggling that the minister of health has no clue about one of the most important facts he would need to know: how many nurses there are in the health sector.
In a response to the DA in parliament this week, Dr Joe Phaahla said there were just 22 000 nurses in the whole of South Africa to care for a population of just under 60 million … or an outrageous one nurse to about 2 700 people.
Yet data from the South Africa Nursing Council last year showed the country had a nursing staff contingent of about 280 000, which equates to one nurse per 214 people. That is still an unacceptably high figure, though.
However, the shock-horror damage had already been done as media outlets headlined the catastrophic understaffing in the nursing profession. It is worrying that the minister could not only make such a statement in public – and as part of an official written reply – but that, in doing so, neither he, nor his senior staff, picked up such a blatant error.
These are the people, remember, who expect to be entrusted with hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money to build their utopian National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
With that sort of awareness of realities, the NHI could make the Eskom debacle look like a tea party by comparison. Nursing staff are going to be critical to the success of the NHI, because they are at the front line between the doctors and specialists and the patients.
Sadly, many of them – like doctors and specialists – are becoming increasingly concerned about what their future might hold under the NHI and whether they face a future ruled by bureaucratic incompetence.
Many are looking to leave the profession or go to greener pastures abroad. With a minister like this in charge, can you blame them?