12 May 2020
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has called on the South African Nursing Council (SANC) to intensify demands for the Department of Health to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to nurses and other healthcare workers at each and every health institution in the country as the world marks International Nurses Day amid the COVID-19 crisis and South Africa’s confirmed deaths from the virus breach the 190 mark. This year’s International Nurses Day which is celebrated every year on the 12th of May – the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, marks and honours the noble profession by way of its theme: “Nurses : A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health”, and also marks the 200th anniversary of her birth.
As millions of South Africans retreated to the relative safety of their homes on 27 March 2020, the start of the Level 5 national lockdown, thousands of nurses had to leave that refuge and report for frontline duty to assist in the national efforts of flattening the curve of the deadly virus. They have diligently remained at their posts since then, and some like Ntombizakithi Ngidi and Petronella “Aunty Nellie” Benjamin, two nurses from the Western Cape – which has become the national epicentre of COVID-19 with more than 4 500 confirmed cases – have unfortunately succumbed to the virus in the line of duty. FEDUSA salutes these two heroines and all members from our affiliated unions, HOSPERSA and PSA and the many other nurses, for their bravery, amidst the frustration and continued battles at various South African institutions, in the struggle against an invisible enemy.
The closure of Durban’s prestigious St Augustine’s Hospital in April after some nurses and patients tested positive for COVID-19, the ongoing battle at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Gauteng where the first positive cases of the virus were treated, the respective death tolls of 81 378, 32 065 and 30 739 people in the U.S, U.K. and Italy, is a stark reminder that the virus knows no social class regardless of status and faces. FEDUSA salutes you, and we stand side by side with you as the irony has been clearly revealed – the honor and dignity that envelopes this profession now especially in the fight against COVID 19, must be restored. The Federation will therefore continue to amplify its calls for the thousands of critical, unfilled posts to be filled, with clear rewards and recognition for these unsung heroes. Moreover, FEDUSA remains completely committed in its resolve to police, monitor and shame those employers who continue to willfully violate the OHS prescripts and emergency COVID 19 directives that have just recently been gazetted. Policies are only as good as the paper they are written on, if the proper enforcement and monitoring mechanisms in the workplaces remain absent and serve as mere window dressing and showcasing.
We have seen and heard the many reported incidences where nurses were not provided with sufficient PPE and their cries for safer working conditions falling on deaf ears. As a result, more than 500 health workers, predominately nurses, have contracted the deadly coronavirus in South Africa. We are of the view that many of these positive cases amongst health workers including Nurses could have been avoided if more protection had been provided.
“Nurses are present at some of life’s most precious moments, and at some of its most tragic. Nurses serve humanity and, by their actions, they protect the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and nations”. FEDUSA Salutes you and will continue to uphold and fight for your wellbeing and safety, now more than ever.
For interviews please contact:
Ms Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2625
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096