Plan to Address The Nursing Vacancy Rate
This speech was delivered by the Health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo at the International Nurse’s Day commemoration event at the Western Cape College of Nursing.
The Western Cape Government Has a Plan to Address The Nursing Vacancy Rate
Good afternoon to my Head of Department, Dr Beth Engelbrecht,
Western Cape Collage of Nursing Principle , Mr Govin Dudley
Our director of Nursing, Florence Africa
Our special guests, Mrs Mareldia Patton & Mrs Maureen Ross
And most importantly our nursing students here today.
International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. This year, we acknowledge the day under the theme: 'Nurses: A force for Change: Care, Effective, Cost Effective'. The International Council of Nurses commemorates this important day each year so that we may be reminded about the crucial role that nurses play in our public health system. When people say that nurses are the backbone of health system, it is not just a cliché. It is a reality.
Without the dedication of thousands of men and women who pour themselves into this profession, we would never be able to achieve any of what we pride ourselves in. Nurses are also our ‘Front of Office’. They are the first point of contact for our clients. Nurses determine the experience of every patient in our healthcare facilities. That is why it is incredibly important for us to have enough content nurses on the floors of our facilities.
I would like to pay tribute to the ‘Three Musketeers’ who, between them, have 136 years of experience. Mrs Patton and Mrs Ross both dedicated 46 years of their lives to the public health system and they have come to share that wealth of knowledge with you today. Thank you for the invaluable advice that you have passed on to our students. You have managed to pass the baton of many years of service. I would like to salute you, ladies. You are the true beacon of service.
Four months ago, when I took over this portfolio, I had to map out a vision for my tenure. This was a very interesting exercise because like the thousands of nurses here and across South Africa, I was once a foot solider myself. With two young children, I would pull the all-nighters serving in at least four of South Africa’s nine provinces. It was tough but exceptionally fulfilling. It was indeed a calling.
Mapping out my vision was an interesting exercise because I was now a policy maker, a representative of both those nurses I worked with and looked up to and the patients who receive the care. I decided that I wanted to focus my time improving the patient experience at our healthcare facilities. I wanted to reinvigorate the policy of Caring for our Carers. When our employees are well looked after, they are likely to look after our patients well. The relationship between patients and healthcare workers is an essential one. It can also strained due to service pressures. It therefore gives me great pleasure to be here this morning, addressing you on International Nurses Day.
The Western Cape Government values are integral to the nursing profession. The values of Caring; Competence; Accountability; Integrity Responsiveness and Respect should be what drives every healthcare worker in the province. This is why we incentivise employees who show exceptional dedication to this vision. It is to the benefit of all other employees and the patients that we serve daily.
The theme for this year speaks to the need for change, care and efficiency. This is because across the world healthcare systems are under pressure. The business of state funded healthcare is becoming increasingly expensive and the demands are becoming bigger daily. In the Western Cape alone we serve over 75% of the population at our facilities. This figure continues to increase while infrastructure and the nationally allocated budget are not able to keep up. This means that those who feel this pressure the most are our nurses. We need change in this regard. We need to allocate our funds where the service pressures are currently. We need to spend our infrastructure budget effectively to ease our pressure points.
The second strand of out theme speaks to care. Care includes both our patients and our employees and our patients. Care also means ensuring that we have enough nurses trained, that those nurses are placed and that they adequately serve patients without massive gaps in their staff compliment. Vacancy rates, bursary funds and placement of our healthcare workers remains a challenge.
The Western Cape Government has undertaken to rectify these challenges where it has been possible. The Department of Health has therefore created a dedicated Directorate to provide, amongst others, the leadership, develop strategic priorities, formulate policies, coordinate the education and training and support the services. During this financial year, we have been able to award 1737 new and maintenance bursaries to nursing students at the Western Cape College of Nursing and the University of the Western Cape. While vacancy rates remain a problem, we are doing a lot to meet the demand for nurses.
We have a two year training plan in place to address the issue of skills deficit and vacancy rates. We are currently in the process of developing a model to address the needs verses the supply of nurses. And so ladies and gentlemen, it is my commitment to you today that during my time in office I will be a hands-on Minister. Addressing vacancy rates and skills shortages will be my priority in this directorate.
We may not be where we need to be but I can assure that I have a group of very dedicated staff members who work tirelessly to ensure that each strand of the public healthcare system in the Western Cape comes together. In commemoration of Nurse’s Day 2015 I encourage you to study hard so you may soon join in the ranks of the nursing profession. We need you.
I thank you.