Finance minister Enoch Gondogwana praised healthcare workers as the “last and only line of defense against the [Covid-19] pandemic.” Despite their hero status, however, most nurses cannot even afford basic necessities like housing and medical aid.
This is the chilling revelation of a former nurse who spoke to Health For Mzansi anonymously over fears of being blackballed in the sector. Frontline medical staff are exhausted, underpaid, traumatised and constantly at risk of falling ill themselves, she says. “Most nurses in this country can’t afford basic necessities such as housing, medical aid, education fees for their kids, or even proper monthly groceries, let alone furthering their studies.”
The Cape Town-based nurse dreamed of healing people since she was a girl. However, severe staff shortages, lack of equipment and a “small” salary has seen her swop her epaulettes for a stethoscope.
“Nurses provide the exact care as doctors and even more in terms of the practicality of it. Yet, the salary is not even half of what doctors receive. How does this even make sense?”
Healthcare workers are expected to give quality care, but the environment they work in is not conducive she lamented.
Meanwhile, Gondogwana yesterday allocated R2.3 billion for Covid-19 vaccine jabs as well as, “an additional R15.6 billion … to provincial health departments to support their continued response to Covid-19, and to bridge shortfalls in essential goods and services. R3.3 billion is allocated to absorb medical interns and community service doctors.”
In this budget, he also said that government was taking steps to support education, health, and the fight against crime and corruption.
‘But we need jobs’
In East London, Oyama Mditshwa (33) became a meter taxi driver after he could not find a job as a social worker.
Mditshwa was born in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape and matriculated from the Msobomvu Senior High School in 2008. He began his journey into social work at the University of Fort Hare, and graduated with honours in 2015. He has since been unemployed.
“I gave up on being a social worker because of the large number of unemployed social work graduates,” he says. “As long as I could get a government job in social work, I would take it.”
According to a spokesperson in the department of health, Foster Mohale, government salaries cannot match that of the private sector. He says that health professionals were more likely to seek employment in private healthcare or even start their own clinic.
Mohale adds that there is a demand for health professionals with qualifications in fields of specialisation.
“Job creation is not solely a government obligation; the private sector also plays a part. Numerous causes, including attractive wage packages offered by private health care providers and migration to foreign countries in search of better economic opportunities, contribute to the public health sector’s scarcity of health professionals such as gynaecologists.”