Newly qualified nurses in Mpumalanga have accused the provincial Department of Health of betrayal after it emerged that they would no longer be offered jobs after completing their training.
They said they were frustrated and furious after the department disclosed the unpleasant news during the Public Health Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Chamber (PHSDSBC) meeting recently held in the provincial legislature.
Itumeleng Maganedisa, the provincial secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), said they have taken up the issue with Health MEC Sasekani Manzini.
“We have already written a letter of complaint to the MEC of Health Sasekani Manzini. We are waiting for the response then after that will stage a protest at the premier’s office. The department has announced that it has no intention to employ the newly-qualified nurses who underwent the R171 programme,” said Maganedisa.
Maganedisa said the situation has affected 51 students, who recently completed the R171 programme under the new nursing curriculum funded by the government.
He said the contract between the Department of Health and the students stated that after completing the course, the students would qualify as general nurses and were to be placed in various healthcare facilities in the province.
“But the announcement by the department is a betrayal of its commitment and further condemnation of the youth to the unemployment lines of our society. This move also casts doubt on the future employment of the following cohorts of student nurses who were taken in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively.”
He said the department’s failure to absorb the new graduates had taken the union by surprise because there is a serious shortage of nurses in the province.
Maganedisa added that the shortage of nurses had caused strain, exhaustion and burnout among the permanent staff.
“Until this issue is resolved, we will call upon all members to pull down their labour while we are preparing to embark on a provincial march to the MEC and Premier’s offices to send a strong message of anger and frustration to the arrogant employer who shows no sympathy for the community and nurses at large.”
When contacted for comment, Mpumalanga Health Department spokesperson Dumisani Malamule failed to respond to questions.
A research report released by Denosa’s national office last month painted a grim picture of unemployment in the nursing sector.
“There are 20 000 unemployed nurses, available in at least eight provinces, except for the Northern Cape, which has not had an intake of student nurses at its nursing college in three years.”
The report, titled: The Nursing Community Service Programme, further revealed that Gauteng had about 10 000 unemployed nurses, followed by Free State with 5 000, Limpopo with 3 000, Mpumalanga with 2 000, Western Cape with 1 000 and North West with 500. The Eastern Cape had 350 unemployed nurses, while KwaZulu-Natal had 200.