The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says it is concerned about reports that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, medical staff were being employed at care levels they did not have experience in.
“What came to SAMA’s attention is that in the ICU, which is a highly specialised unit, you cannot employ any nurse in an ICU ward – you need to be trained for that.
“If you put staff in a unit they aren’t trained for properly, you not only compromise the patient’s care but you are also taking her dignity away from her because she (the nurse) doesn’t know what to do and she is too afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ because she might become a statistic of unemployment,” said SAMA chair Dr Angelique Coetzee.
Coetzee added that it was also important that those who were in management positions in the health sector to have experience.
Coetzee was speaking during a webinar, hosted by former Johannesburg mayor and founder of Action SA Herman Mashaba, which focused on the issues healthcare workers faced, and unemployed healthcare workers.
Coetzee said that there needed to be a probe into the abolishment of unfunded medical vacancies at hospitals – an attempt to make hospitals and provinces look “artificially better on paper” because there aren’t any unfilled vacancies.
She said: “One of the indicators at the national department of health is your vacancy rate so if your vacancy rate is artificially being brought down to a level of 1-2%, by taking the unfunded posts and abolishing them, then you look great on paper.
“Then it seems there aren’t a lot of posts that were put on a moratorium.”
“We would like to ask the national Department of Health to set up a task team so that we go and look at the stats from the last 20 years to see how many posts have become unfunded post and then abolished to make everything on paper look better.”
During the webinar, anonymous healthcare workers sent in voice recordings to air their grievances.
One said: “We nurses are bearing the brunt and are in the frontline of this pandemic. Most of our colleagues are getting infected and have to quit.
“We have lost colleagues and we are not getting the kind of support we had hoped to get from the department. The pressure to hide things from the public is even bigger.”
The healthcare worker said the nursing council was also putting them under pressure.
“We are doing our best with what we have and we need help as human beings. Coping with the carnage that the disease has caused is not easy on all of us.
“It affects us, our families, our private lives and most of all, it affects our mental well-being. We cannot continue like this,” she said.
Her sentiments hit close to home for Mashaba, who said he hadn’t seen his sister – also a healthcare worker – in two months.
“Listening to this audio and hearing it for the first time, it actually brings painful memories home. As I am talking to you and South Africans, my sister is under quarantine.
“She is a professional qualified nurse who qualified in the 70s and works in a very infectious and toxic environment,” he said.
On Sunday, Mashaba and Action SA launched the #HireMedicalHeroes campaign in response to frozen medical posts.
He said that so far more than 300 unemployed healthcare workers signed up for the campaign.