DENOSA urges South African government to pay attention to the ICN latest report on concerning mass trauma experienced by the global nursing workforce

As the country battles the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) calls on the South African government to pay special attention to the latest report by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) which highlights mass trauma that is experienced by the global nursing workforce, including South African nurses, as they fight the pandemic.

DENOSA fears that as the country is in the middle of the second wave and still looks set for the third wave even, it may not be long before all our healthcare workers become patients themselves due to trauma, anxiety and depression that they are going through currently.

The report, which gathered information from nurses from ICN member-countries like South Africa until the end of December 2020, gives insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought mass trauma onto the nursing workforce and also highlights the importance of protecting the frontline caregivers. It also gives insight into how policy-developers in governments, healthcare facilities and health organisations can deliver on their responsibility to support and strengthen the nursing workforce, which is the backbone of health systems.

The report found that, at the end of December 2020:

  • The nursing workforce lost no less than 2262 nurses to COVID-19 in 59 countries, which is a conservative total given poor reporting and recording of deaths of healthcare workers by countries;
  • More than 1.6 million healthcare workers have been infected in 34 countries;
  • Overall, an average of 10% of COVID-19 infections are amongst the healthcare workers;   
  • In many countries, nurses were the biggest healthcare worker group to contract COVID-19;
  • In Iran, 45% of that country’s nursing workforce contracted COVID-19 as 60 000 nurses were infected;
  • Mexico, another hardest-hit nation, suffered 21% of its workforce contracted COVID-19.

DENOSA has been receiving complaints of burnouts, anxiety, depression and trauma from nurses in South Africa who are faced with the ever-increasing number of admissions which have proven to be much higher in the second wave than they were in the first wave. Nurses are also experiencing a marked increase in deaths of patients this time around, which sours their working environment. Despite these increases, they are also experiencing trauma, anxiety and depression mainly due to the following:

  • ­Shortage of staff due to Treasury’s ruthless budget cuts in provincial departments; 
  • Abnormally high infection and death rates amongst their colleagues in the workplace;
  • Lack of rest (many have had their leave applications declined); 
  • Lack of psychological support from the employer (many have to seek psychological support out of their own pockets);
  • An increase in medical schemes premiums and inflation at the time they have not had any adjustment on their salaries since April 2020 to date.

DENOSA reiterates its previously made plea to the Minister of Health, who himself knows what healthcare workers are going through right now, to prevent the potential catastrophe of having healthcare workers becoming patients in their numbers by advocating for healthcare workers to:

  • Get psychological counselling and support as a matter of urgency; 
  • Get relief by employing more healthcare workers in facilities including field hospitals;
  • Address the financial strain healthcare workers are feeling due to no adjustment in their remuneration for almost a year;
  • Consider paying healthcare workers COVID-19 risk allowance; or
  • Consider providing tax breaks to healthcare workers for at least six months as other countries and states like Ghana and the state of Louisiana have done for their healthcare workers.   


Issued by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA)

For more information, contact:

Cassim Lekhoathi, DENOSA Acting General Secretary

Mobile: 082 328 9671

Simon Hlungwani, DENOSA President

Mobile: 082 328 9635

Tel: 012 343 2315