Speech by the MEC for Health and Social Development, Ms Ntombi Mekgwe, MPL, at the meeting with Gauteng Retired Nurses Forum, Charlote Maxeke Academic Hospital Auditorium
2 Aug 2011Chairperson of the Gauteng Retired Nurses Forum, Mrs Ethel Lesolang
Members of the Management Committee of the Gauteng Retired Nurses Forum
Members of the Gauteng Retired Nurses Forum
Thank you very much for honouring the invitation to meet and discuss matters which affect delivery of health services in our province. I indicated to my office earlier this year that I had held meetings with a wide range of stakeholders since my appointment, but I had not yet met retired nurses.
I also had an opportunity to interact with some of you during International Nurses Day in Meyerton in May this year.
Throughout the years the nursing profession has been heralded for upholding values which are not found in any other profession.
These values are:
- Basic tenets of caring for the sick
- Nursing being unlike any other profession as it involves lives of the people
- Putting patient’s lives first
As government we continue to recognise the valuable contribution and dedication shown by nurses in the health system and wellness of our communities in Gauteng.
As retired nurses your contribution in ensuring that the values I have just referred to continue to be upheld is invaluable.
You are the best trained nurses in the world. The State President in his first State of the Nation Address in 2009 committed government to addressing shortage of nurses by training, recruiting and retaining our nurses as valuable national assets.
With regard to on-going training, it is imperative that you assist newly graduated nurses to keep abreast of new developments with regard to prevalent and emerging patterns of disease.
In other words training of nurses must always remain relevant to communities that they serve.
In our commitment to focus on the role of nurses, we need competent leadership in nursing and to ensure that new nurses are mentored by experienced professionals including retired nurses.
To this end, it is important to note that mentoring of young nurses will ensure that standards for which South African nurses are renowned are never lost.
You continue to lead the way in ensuring active participation of citizens and communities in addressing health issues, promoting healthy lifestyles and ensuring that communities access services closer to where they live.
When I tabled the Department’s Budget Vote in the Legislature on 8 July 2011, I highlighted three areas where we will make an impact.
- Primary health care services
- Health posts
- School health services.
This is definitely not a new approach to delivery of health services. The focus is on taking health to where people live.
Therefore working with communities in the district health services, you can collectively address environmental decay, disease prevention of disease, poverty and discrimination towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations (UN).
It is your duty to ensure that our communities take responsibility for their health through living healthy lifestyles through eating correctly and exercising. You have to capacitate our communities to take ownership of their health.
I have interacted with a number of stakeholders since my appointment in November last year.
During these interactions, the following challenges were pointed out:
- Patients being turned away from health facilities
- Overcrowding due to high patient numbers
- Poor supply of medication at health facilities
- Old and inadequate medical equipment
- Complaints about the negative attitude of some nurses.
Government therefore requires the support of retired nurses in order turn the situation around. We need to go ‘back to basics’ when treating and caring for patients. This will go a long way towards improving the image of nursing.
You have walked on the footsteps of Cecilia Makiwane, Adelaide Tambo, Albertina Sisulu and many others. They put the interests of patients first.
They were easily identifiable as nurses because of how they conducted themselves while at work and also in the community. It is your responsibility, therefore, to work with us to restore the glory of the profession.
In fact nursing is more than a career. Nursing is a vocation!
Complaints about nurses being rude to patients should become a thing of the past in Gauteng. Your role in mentoring and coaching will ensure that we reduce the number of adverse events in public health facilities.
The three Batho Pele principles; we belong, we care, and we serve must continue to guide how we provide health care. In practical terms for example, this means reintroduction of supervision by nurse managers.
They must return to the practice of visiting wards moving from bed to bed in order to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
We therefore have a responsibility to explore new ways of providing health care without compromising quality.
Government has identified health as one of its five priorities in the current term of office. In order to meet the commitments we have made, we are obliged to ensure that the services that we deliver at our clinics and hospitals inspire confidence among our people.
I therefore take this opportunity to remind all of you that when our people come to our facilities they are at their most vulnerable state, therefore they need to be treated with utmost dignity and respect.
No patient should be turned away at any facility without having been assessed, even if they do not reside in that catchment area, or have presented themselves at an inappropriate level of care!
I call upon you to continue to instil among young nurses Florence Nightingale’s strong values of hard work, knowledge, competence, and discipline.
These values influenced her work throughout her life. She promoted the importance of the nurse's integrity and fought for health care for people regardless of faith or economic background.
Her vision completely changed society's approach to nursing. In order for nurses to engage our communities, the entire profession needs to embody the values and vision upheld by Florence Nightingale.
Your exemplary professional conduct will contribute to attracting new recruits who will be dedicated to the service of humanity.
While most of you are already assigned to hospitals, there is a need to deploy retired nurses to clinics, health posts and school health services. We want to reach our people before they become ill. This is where your experience will count.
I take this opportunity to salute you for having chosen to avail yourselves even after retirement. Having chosen this noble profession you know very well that “Nurses never retire” in the true sense of the word. Communities do not speak of “Retired nurses”. In their eyes you remain a nurse until you depart from this earth.
Therefore, your role remains that of coaches and mentors.
I thank you.
Issued by: Gauteng Health
2 Aug 2011
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