COSATU International Nurse’s Day Statement

The Congress of South African Trade Unions wishes all nurses a wonderful International Nurse’s Day on this day, the 12th of May 2021 under the theme, “Nurses challenges amidst COVID-19”.

The Federation salutes these courageous and compassionate workers who are the backbone of our health system. In the midst of a deadly COVID-19 pandemic, nurses continue to do a sterling job every day to deliver much-needed services to the sick and vulnerable of our country.

 We remember all those nurses who have lost their lives in the line of duty, especially those who have succumbed to COVID-19. These heroes and heroines perform their responsibilities with courage despite working under difficult conditions and lacking the necessary protective equipment to carry out their tasks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the health and safety of health professionals and the lack of preparedness’ by both public and private health institutions to protect their employees.

 Globally, there is evidence that there is a universal shortage of nurses. In South Africa, this problem cannot be overstated with South Africa having one of the worst nurse-to-patient ratios in the world.

As a result, individual nurses are overloaded. They are overloaded by the number of patients they see and the number of tasks they perform as a result of the austerity measures implemented by the treasury placing a moratorium on the employment of nurses and other health personnel.

 It is therefore appalling to notice that despite this huge work overload that these workers deal with every day, they still experience abuse and untoward behaviour from some members of the public.

 This contemptuous behaviour does not only come from some idiotic members of the public but it has been sadly demonstrated by our government and other economic commentators who have been pushing for the freezing of their wages.

 The failure by government to pay nurses and other public servants their wage increases last year, and the intransigent attitude they have adopted towards the current public service wage negotiations is regrettable and insulting, especially for the nurses that served as front line workers waging war against a deadly disease.

 The Federation appreciates the important role that these foot soldiers play in the pushback against the high quadruple disease burden consuming the country.

 The gradual improvement in the nation’s life expectancy is a result of the critical work done by nurses. The life expectancy for South Africa in 2020 was 64.12 years, a 0.39% increase from 2019 when the life expectancy was 63.87 years. This is a rapid improvement in life expectancy considering that it was sitting at 57 a decade ago.

Nurses remain the backbone in the project of re-engineering our health care system and also in rolling out the NHI.

 In the memory of some of our great nursing stalwarts like Mam Charlotte Maxeke, the federation recommit itself to fight for the improvement of nurses’ compensation and better working conditions.

 Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794