By Sicelo Maziya | 2019-07-27
Despite assertion by nurses that government action came about after, only being petitioned, a week later the health system continues to collapse with no intervention.
The Nurses Association has revealed that since their petition, government has failed to respond to their demands as well as their promise to invite them for discussions on the issues of health in the Kingdom.
This is despite the assurance by the ministry of health principal secretary Dr. Simon Zwane that he would engage nurses on the health issues.
Swaziland Nurses Association President Bheki Mamba said the situation had deteriorated further than the time of the petition as patients were now dying before their very eyes of nurses due, this time, to starvation.
He said lack of food for the patients who dearly need it for sheer survival was another addition to the shortage of medicines and poor working conditions coupled with delayed cost of living adjustments for nurses who must deal with the situation on a daily basis.
Mamba invited legislators to take interest in the issues of public health and health in general as it was now life threatening.
Mamba further invited Members of Parliament to visit all public health facilities to better understand the situation first hand from the patients and nurses within their constituencies. He lamented that the ministry of health and the Prime Minister’s office did not see it fit to respond to the petitions delivered to their offices highlighting the deplorable state of health in the country. He said such silence left them with no choice but to meet and strategise on implementing what they had planned in order to see the situation turned around.
“Up to now, we have not received any invite to discuss the situation as the PS promised when we gave him the petition. Similarly the prime ministers’ office has not responded, which is a clear indication that they don’t take the health situation seriously,” said Mamba.
“Patients simply starve to death from lack of food. They can’t take any medication without having eaten.”
He added: “Imagine an elderly person is referred to Mbabane Government hospital for better medical treatment but there are no drugs and the person is being starved to death due to lack of food in the hospital and also without anyone bringing food for the patient”.
Mamba further begged legislators to take particular interest in how health situations were struggling in the country. He said he read in the newspapers that an MP was concerned about issues of transportation of other people that are not supposed to use government transport. Mamba challenged the MPs to be concerned about the life that is lost in the public health facilities as government continues to be silent much against a number of people no longer getting any assistance in the public health system in the country.
Last month, nurses gave 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.
Government was given four weeks and it elapsed this week without any correspondence or invite for solution seeking talks by the ministry as promised.
Nurses sent a strong warning, promising to do all they can within their power to expose the real situation to the world; to report government’s failure to address a problem of crippling drug shortages.
The nurses have vowed to come all out and beg the international community for assistance, including with money, just to save the health system.
They have threatened to use every platform available; funerals, weddings and any gathering to tell the masses about the lack of drugs at government hospitals because government peddles lies via state media without the voices of the people suffering at the health facilities.
They pleaded with government to declare the drugs shortage a health crisis and find a way to resolve the challenges with immediate effect.
The nurses said the ministry lied to the nation, saying it was sending drugs and supplies yet it was only sending allegedly expired nevarapine drugs for newborns and Panados.
They further claimed that there were no ARVs (antiretroviral) for scores of HIV positive patients in the country they invited the prime minister to visit all the country’s health facilities to assess the situation.
The association, through their petition, further stated that not long ago the country introduced the nefarious ‘test and treat’ project: “We had raised that it will balloon costs of health care and compromise the supply of ARVs to all that need them, let alone the effects that might have on the metabolic system in the long run”.
Nurses further alleged that the situation was so desperate that patients were now forced to buy their own medication and bring it back to nurses for assistance.
Nurses made startling claims that patients were being given painkillers, while those with sugar diabetes were no longer getting assistance due to lack of supplies.
The ministry was not only confronted on the drugs and medical supplies but also that the hiring of nurses should be prioritised and the recruitment process be returned to the line ministry that better understands the dire need of nurses. The nurses claimed such technical recruitment cannot be political, demanding that the responsibility should be removed from relying on cabinet decision. Swaziland Nurses Association’s Second Deputy Secretary Neliso Matsenjwa, who also read the petitions upon delivery warned that they noted that cabinet resolved not to hire or promote nurses anymore, yet the same could not be said of security forces, who are hired and promoted at a huge cost to the taxpayer.
“It’s disheartening to note how cabinet is 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, for it to be fixed, there should be an approval by cabinet,” reads the petition. The nurses association further demanded for a sound healthcare financing strategy to cushion the health are system in economically challenging times. “If this is not done in the next four weeks, we shall render the health sector unworkable”.
‘Don’t set us against patients’
Nurses, during their petition, pleaded with government to fix the situation and stop setting them against patients through statements that everything was normal
They pleaded that government should desist from saying they are not willing to work whereas there was no medication to assist patients.
Matsenjwa said they were trained professionals and all they did was guided by their professional code. She said government must make sure they had the drugs and supplies. “This we have done guided by our own professional code, 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.
Ministry finally invites nurses for talks
The ministry of health after being confronted by Observer on Saturday on whether they have met and responded to the petition by the nurses, they then called the nurses association to invite them for talks. President of the Nurses association, Mamba, confirmed receiving a call an hour after the ministry was questioned on the progress on the health situation as per the petition of the nurses.
We’re doing all we can to reverse the situation-Ministry
Ministry of Health Communications Officer Nomfundo Dlamini said the ministry had a scheduled meeting with the nurses’ association as part of the plans to update and discuss how best health systems can be restored under the current situation.
She further reiterated what was said by Principal Secretary Dr Simon Zwane when addressing the nurses during delivery of the petition where he said nurses formed the key partner in the implementation of the quality and sound healthcare system in the country.
She further shared that the ministry was well aware of the current situation and was not ignoring the facts on the ground. “The ministry of health is working around the clock in mitigating the situation; all plans for the ministry are towards ensuring that quality health systems are restored in the country. However, the situation is not normalising as per projected timelines, but government is taking the situation seriously,” said Dlamini.
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