We are not monkeys. We do not eat peanuts,” Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) president S’dumo Dlamini told protesting nurses outside the department of health in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Thousands of nurses from the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) marched with National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) members to hand over a memorandum to Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi, who was not there.
“As Cosatu, we are no longer going to allow our nurses and members to be exploited.
“We want to send a message to our government: we are not monkeys. We do not eat peanuts.
“We are public servants who are dedicated to the service of our people,” Dlamini said.
The large group of protesters marched to the health department, the National Treasury and the South African Nursing Council to demand better working conditions and facilities for health workers.
Denosa leaders, who were angered by Motsoaledi’s absence, read out the list of demands to chief nursing officer Dr Nonhlanhla Makhanya.
General secretary Oscar Phaka said they were demanding that the department funds the required equipment and services.
“We demand provision of basic equipment from credible and accredited service providers for workers to be able to render optimal care of the community.
“We demand development of standard equipment lists, which all facilities should adhere to, which could be accredited to provide services.”
The union was also concerned there was a “drastic” shortage of staff although a multitude of qualified staff nurses and assistant nurses were looking for jobs.
“We demand that all vacant nursing posts be filled across all categories.
“We demand that more nurses be trained on advanced nursing care courses to be able to refer and treat high-risk patients.”
Phaka added that nurses were often reluctant to report assaults or threats against them, claiming their supervisors said violence “came with the territory”.
“Healthcare and community service workers are at increased risk of assaults because of increased violence in our society.
“We demand that government must, with immediate effect, de-tenderise security and hire permanent security personnel, train and equip them to man these facilities around the clock.”
Earlier this month, Denosa members marched to the SA Nursing Council offices in Pretoria to demand that it opens offices in all provinces after a nurse died travelling to the capital city to pay her nursing licence.