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: A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and respect rights to secure global health.”

The Federation remembers all those nurses who have lost their lives in the line of duty, especially those who have succumbed to COVID-19. In the memory of some of our great nursing stalwarts like Mam Charlotte Maxeke, the Federation is committing itself to intensifying the fight for better remuneration and improved working conditions for nurses.

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.

South Africa also happens to have one of the world’s worst nurse-to-patient ratios in the world. This is unsustainable for a country that happens to suffer from a very high disease burden

COSATU welcomes the recent appointment of additional nurses and doctors.  This will help ease the burdens on our health care workers.  However, much more needs to be done to address the critical skills shortages, long queues at public hospitals, routine cases of one nurse having to perform the work of three nurses, and yet simultaneously large numbers of nurses and health workers struggle to find employment. 

The austerity budget that was tabled at Parliament in February is making the lives of nurses impossible. The failure by government to pay nurses and other public servants their wage increases since 2020 is scandalous.

Nurses remain the backbone in the project of re-engineering our health care system and also in rolling out the NHI.  COSATU urges Parliament to move with speed in processing the NHI Bill.  Government too must ensure the necessary financial allocations and other preparations are put in place for the NHI.  We cannot afford to continue as a society where half of our medical expenditure caters for the 16%, who are able to afford medical aid, and the other half goes to an overwhelmed public health care network battling to care for the remaining 84% of the population.  The projected budget cuts to the overall health allocation by government over the next 3 years undermines the goal of building an NHI, and makes little sense for a country that struggled to put in place the necessary healthcare infrastructure to deal with Covid-19.

The recent murders of nurses on duty and patients at hospitals in Cape Town and Johannesburg is a wakeup call for government to take the issue of security in our public healthcare institutions seriously.  These are tragically regular occurrences at many township facilities.

As we salute the gallant work of our nurses, all of us as members of society need to play our role too.  We all need to vaccinate against Covid-19 and all other deadly diseases and pandemics.  These vaccines have been proven to be the most effective way to save lives and livelihoods.  They are also critical in easing the burden on our nurses and health workers struggling to care for patients in overwhelmed hospitals.

Issued by COSATU

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