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DENOSA Limpopo statement on scapegoating of nurses on the Ngwaabe Clinic incident  

Media statement 

Thursday, 04 July 2019 


The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) in Limpopo takes great exception to the unwarranted blame of nurses at Ngwaabe Clinic by management of Tubatse Sub-District Health in Sekhukhune over an incident that was caused by the ongoing severe shortage of staff within the Department of Health in the province. 

On Saturday, a heavily pregnant woman who was about to go on labour had to be assisted by community members as she gave birth next to Ngwaabe Clinic in Sekhukhune District, which was closed as it is not operational due to shortage of staff namely nurses, cleaners and administrators.  

The clinic had a nursing staff composition of six professional nurses, until mid-June when one professional nurse was hired, whereas it should have eight professional nurses. Even midweek, the clinic operates a night shift only from Monday to Thursday due to the improvisation of nurses who have availed themselves to be on call to attend to emergencies. The clinic needs the whole staff complement for a night shift for Friday and weekend, namely a minimum of eight professional nurses with midwifery expertise excluding Operational Manager, a cleaner and the admin clerk. Any delivery needs at least two midwives and an assistant nurse, as well as a cleaner. 

When the community got angry over this incident of a woman who gave birth outside a closed clinic, they went to the clinic on Monday and closed the clinic. 

The following day, a meeting was held between the management of Tubatse Sub-District and community members. This is where representatives from the Sub-District shifted the blame to nurses and said nurses should have been at work on the weekend and that, going forward, there is a need for a tight monitoring. They said nothing about the shortage, which is the real reason the clinic is closed on weekend. 

DENOSA is extremely disappointed with this dishonesty from the representative of the Department of Health, which is inciting the tensions between community and nurses at that clinic. As a result, and acting based on the lie that monitoring is the only area that is lacking, the community volunteered some young unemployed men from the community to monitor the working of nurses at the clinic. Now the elected community members will have to see for themselves that the shortage of staff is the core underlying reason for the closure of the clinic. 

Nurses at the clinic wrote a letter of grievance over this shortage as far back as March 2018 (attached see the letter of grievance over the shortage), but nothing was done to address it as the Sub-District believed there was no shortage.  

DENOSA reiterates that the Department of Health must hire cleaners and admin clerks and not overlook the essence of presence of these support staff members, because nurses are not cleaners and they are not admin clerks. 

This is happening when the province is sitting with over 270 qualified nurses who have finished their year of community service. Ironically, the province is even letting go of these qualified nurses to other provinces when the shortage is so dire in all facilities of the province. 

DENOSA reiterates that every life of a patient matters, and there is no need for death of a patient to occur first before the issue of shortage of staff is given the attention it deserves, let alone the scapegoating of nurses. Now the community is made by the Department to hold a view that nurses at the clinic do not serve the interests of the community, whereas this is not the case.

Many clinics in the province should be opened 24 hours, but they are not because of the shortage of staff and resources. And the Department has not come up with any plan to overcome this problem which is threatening the lives of vulnerable patients.   


Issued by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) in Limpopo

For more information, contact:

Jacob Molepo, DENOSA Provincial Organiser

Mobile: 072 587 0684