By Sicelo Maziya | 2019-06-22
The Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini and his cabinet have a serious headache in their hands. Nurses have given government an ultimatum to solve the drugs shortage or face dire consequences, an unimaginable walk-out from all public health facilities in the four regions.
He has four weeks to do so.
In a serious statement of intent, nurses downed their tools to demonstrate and forward a petition to the ministry of health and the prime minister’s office, highlighting the seriousness of the drugs shortage in health facilities. In doing so, they also sent a strong warning to not take this situation lying down, promising to do all they can within their power to expose the situation to the world, to report government’s failure to address a crippling drugs shortage.
The protest march was held under the banner of the Eswatini Nurses Association, which warned the prime minister to heed their warning, stating that they would reveal the extent to which there was a shortage of drugs in the country. They have threatened to use every platform available; funerals, weddings and any gathering to tell the masses about the lack of drugs at the government hospitals.
The nurses pleaded with government to declare the drugs shortage a health crisis and find a way to resolve the challenges. Claiming that there were no ARVs for patients in the country, they invited the prime minister to visit all the country’s health facilities to assess the situation.
They further alleged that the situation is so desperate that patients are now buying their own medication for nurses to help them.
Nurses made startling claims that patients were being given painkillers, while those with sugar diabetes were no longer getting assistance due to a lack of supplies.
As a result, they have demanded that government addresses this crisis within four weeks, or face the consequences of a shutdown.
They want government to also prioritise hiring of nurses and give back the recruitment process to the line ministry and not cabinet. The nurses association further demanded a sound health care financing strategy that will cushion the health care system in economically challenging times.
The nurses association’s Second Deputy Secretary Neliso Matsenjwa said, “if this is not done in the next four weeks, we shall render the health sector unworkable”.
President of the association Bhekie Mamba warned government to stop playing propaganda with patients’ lives, calling on government to be honest about the situation. “The use of the media to send just propaganda messages, saying medical supplies, were being sent to government hospitals knowing it is a lie, must stop,” said Mamba.
Mamba further told Principal Secretary Dr Simon Zwane to stop telling the public that the ministry was sending drugs and supplies yet it was only sending expired nevarapine drugs for newborns and Panados.
Mamba further implored the PS to take the petition seriously, stating that nurses would not allow to set up against patients through statements that nurses were not willing to work, when there was nothing to help them assist patients.
“This we have done guided by our own professional , in particular the principle of veracity, in that as we practice our profession we should do absolute justice when we treat our patients,” added Matsenjwa.
The association, through their petition, further stated that not long ago the country introduced the nefarious test and treat project. Matsenjwa said as a nurses union, “we had raised that it will balloon costs of health care and compromise the supply of ARVs to all need them, let alone the effects that might have on the metabolic system in the long run”.
The nurses petition further warned that they have noted that cabinet resolved not to hire or promote nurses anymore, yet the same can’t be said of security forces, who are hired and promoted at a huge cost to the taxpayer. “It’s disheartening to note how cabinet micro-managing recruitment processes, which has resulted to delayed filling of vacancies and contributed directly to the gross shortage of nurses in the country. We note that even a blocked toilet at a facility, for it to be fixed, there should be an approval by cabinet,” reads the petition
Let’s join hands colleagues, PS pleads with union
The ministry of health Principal secretary Dr Simon Zwane has pleaded with the nurses not to abandon their work due to the current situation, but must work with the ministry in mitigating the challenges, of the health care challenges. Dr Zwane also admitted that the situation is challenging as the country is recovering from a fiscal challenge. He thanked them for being resolute in their decision to march and petition government, although he admitted that he was not happy they were meeting on the road instead of being on the roundtable discussing some of the issues.
He also admitted that the ministry was aware of some of the issues raised in the petition.
Zwane assured that nurses will always be needed to implement of any sound health systems at any given time, further assuring the ministry will meet and look at the petition and find a way to address it soonest, as the situation is known by the ministry. Zwane further pleaded with nurses to work with the ministry in trying to bring health care to every person in the kingdom of Eswatini. He assured nurses that the ministry will look at all the grievances.
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