Dejected and distressed – this is the position in which hundreds of community-service nurses in Limpopo find themselves as they sit at home unemployed for a second month.
The nurses claim the provincial health department advised them – during their initial four-year contracts – that after their training they would be employed permanently through the department.
But at least 198 post-community service nurses have been left in the lurch since their bursary training programme came to an end on January 31.
The department’s spokesperson, Matome Mawasha, said it employed any category of employees based on the availability of resources. But in this case, the Limpopo provincial treasury did not approve the employment of the nurses from this category because of a lack of funds.
A 23-year-old nurse, who asked not to be named, told a different story this week: “We signed a four-year training contract with the promise of being absorbed permanently afterwards.
"Then, last year, we were given a new contract saying that we’d now be employed for 12 months instead. We were surprised because we were meant to be [employed] permanently. Then, all of a sudden in December last year, we were told via a circular that they [the department] didn’t have the funds to employ us.”
City Press has seen a copy of the original contract signed by the young woman, stating under the “terms and conditions” heading, point (g): “Shall after the completion of the course, serve the department for a period equivalent to the contract and study period or such other period, which the department may from time to time determine.”
Several other nurses from the same cohort spoke of their shared frustration in the deviation of what they say was promised to them.
City Press reported on the same issue in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng earlier this year.
Read: State-trained nurses sit idle while SA faces severe staff shortages
However, later in January both provinces announced they would hire additional nurses, in line with the president’s stimulus package, with Gauteng saying it would employ 240 nurses and KwaZulu-Natal 300.
“The president gave the health department a stimulus package to create posts. So when we asked the department [Limpopo] why they said they had no funds when such had been made available to them, they told us they would first appoint groundsmen, cleaners and specialists because there was a shortage of them,” a young man, who went through the course, said.
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA’s Limpopo organiser, Jacob Molepo, said the union had approached the department several times but it was informed there was nothing available.
“We had hoped that by now we would know if the department had planned to absorb the nurses in the next financial year but we have not heard anything yet. We are meeting the department again on March 26 and this will be among the key issues on the agenda,” Molepo said.
Mawasha did not deny that the department had told the young nurses that they would need to serve the department for the same time they had been trained, but said it was on a “should their services be needed” basis.
“When a bursary holder’s services are required after they have completed their studies, new and appropriate contracts are entered into – for internship, community service and/or permanent employment. The bursary contract itself is not an employment contract.
“Whether the department employs any category of employees is informed by the availability of resources and other factors.
“In our case we have to obtain approval from the Limpopo provincial treasury, which considers affordability. It is their legal duty to do so. It is on that basis that the treasury did not approve our request to employ the nurses under the category in which they fall. The provincial treasury took into account the stimulus package when it made the decision,” said Mawasha.
The nurses said they had been told to find work opportunities in the private sector.
But they said their chances were slim because the posts that were available required five years’ working experience, which they didn’t have.
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