DENOSA urges government and employers to adopt ICN’s 10 policy actions to salvage SA’s fast ailing healthcare system this International Nurses Day

PRETORIA – Stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder and hopelessness are what many healthcare professionals still suffer from in most countries’ healthcare systems as the harsh effects and the mounting backlogs of work post- the COVID-19 pandemic still face them, the recent report by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) on global nursing workforce that was released today has found.

The report was released today to coincide with the marking of International Nurses Day, which is celebrated under the theme: Our Nurses. Our Future. The theme calls for the governments and employers to Value, Protect, Respect and Invest in nurses for a sustainable nursing and health care.

As a result, the shortage of nurses globally is reaching alarming levels as many nurses suffer from the severe effects of COVID-19, with many of them opting to resign, retire early or migrate to developed countries which offer both better working conditions and low nurse:patient ratios. 

As today, 12 May 2023, marks International Nurses Day, which is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale as the pioneer of modern nursing, the ICN has set its sights firmly on the future to turn around the world’s healthcare systems and get them ready for Universal Health Coverage, where all people get equal access to quality healthcare based on their need and not their financial standing.

In South Africa, the dire conditions in the country’s healthcare system have made it increasingly impossible for many patients to access quality healthcare services at the time of need. This is due to overcrowding, gross shortage of staff, low pay, and constant reduction in health budgets which leads to procurement of less medicals, resources and equipment.

As a result, many healthcare facilities at the primary healthcare level, which should be rendering services for 24 hours, are still not able to avail this service to millions of vulnerable citizens. For many citizens and patients to receive the services at clinics that operate for 8 hours, they have to sleep over at the entrance of the clinics, waiting for the clinics to open at 07h00. This borders on serious violation of human right and dignity of the patients and communities. 

South Africa is experiencing a shortage of more than 26 000 nurses currently, and this is foreseen to worsen and be around 62 000 by year 2030 if it is not addressed.

Meanwhile, DENOSA in provinces has collected the data of unemployed nurses who are sitting at home due to the lapsing of contracts in different times and non-absorption of both community service and post- community services nurses.

The data shows a total of 20 000 nurses are unemployed and are readily available in at least eight provinces, except for the Northern Cape (the province has not had the intake of student nurses at its nursing college in three years, and thus the only province with a real shortage of nurses). 

The statistics on the unemployed nurses in provinces are as follow:

Eastern Cape:         350

Free State:                5000

Gauteng:                  10 000

KwaZulu-Natal:      200

Limpopo:                  3000

Mpumalanga:        2000

North West:              500

Western Cape:       1000

Northern Cape:      0

To counter the escalating malaise in the healthcare systems, ICN has issued 10 policy actions, under the name CHARTER FOR CHANGE campaign, that governments and employers should adopt at country-level. These 10 policy actions are: 

1. Protect and invest in the nursing profession.

2. Urgently address and improve support for nurses’ health and well-being by ensuring safe and healthy working conditions and respecting their rights. 

3. Advance strategies to recruit and retain nurses to address workforce challenges.

4. Develop, implement and finance national nursing workforce plans.

5. Invest in high-quality, accredited nursing education programmes.

6. Enable nurses to work to their full scope of nursing practice. 

7. Recognize and value nurses’ skills, knowledge, attributes and expertise. 

8. Actively and meaningfully engage national nursing associations.

9. Protect vulnerable populations, uphold and respect human rights, gender equity and social justice. 

10. Appoint nurse leaders to executive positions of all healthcare organisations and government policy making. 

DENOSA is calling on the government, through the Department of Health, and all employers in the healthcare sector to adopt this policy action and for all of us to collaborate closely in the best interest of the country’s healthcare system and the vision to achieve Universal Health Coverage for South Africa’s population.

DENOSA would like to wish all nurses a Happy International Nurses Day.

DENOSA, as the National Nursing Association (NNA) in South Africa that is affiliated to the ICN, has scheduled events where International Nurses Day will be commemorated and celebrated in different dates from Friday 12 May 2023 and in collaboration with the provincial governments in many provinces.

The details of the celebrations are as follows:


Event has been decentralized and will be held at various hospitals in the districts.

JACOB: 072 576 4979

12 May 2023


El Shaddai Tabernacle, International Church in Ermelo, Gert Sibande District

THULANI: 072 564 0136

12 May 2023


HORSESHOE HOTEL, KIMBERLEY, FRANCIS BAARD DISTRICT (The province will also award the Marilyn Lahana Caring Award to the best caring nurse in the province for 2023)

ANTHONY: 072 569 9838

12 May 2023



REUBEN: 071 645 6336

16 May 2023



MBALI: 072 553 1636

18 May 2023



VELI: 072 432 8226

19 May 2023


JACO: 072 028 4621

23 May 2023



BONGANI: 072 620 8806

26 May 2023



BRIAN: 051 430 4142


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

For more information, contact: 

Kwena Manamela, DENOSA General Secretary.

Mobile: 082 328 9698

Sibongiseni Delihlazo, DENOSA Spokesperson.

Mobile: 072 584 4175.