Fears that dismissal of 346 nurses in Lesotho may lead to Basotho burdening SA’s health-care facilities

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Africa's confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 2.72 mln: Africa CDC
Africa's confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 2.72 mln: Africa CDC

Johannesburg – There are fears that the firing of more than 300 nurses in Lesotho could lead to Lesotho citizens flocking to South Africa for medical attention, burdening the overstretched facilities.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said it was “extremely concerned at the reckless manner” in which the Tsepong Group dismissed 346 nurses at Lesotho’s only tertiary health-care facility, Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital, in Maseru.

The Tsepong Group manages the hospital.

Most of the dismissed nurses were specialists, Denosa said.

“This move is likely to put more strain on the overstretched South African health-care facilities in provinces that border Lesotho.

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“What is more disappointing is that the dismissal of these highest-qualified nurses in Lesotho is over a mere complaint about the salary discrepancies that are applied at the institution; nurses with the same skills set and number of years of experience doing the same work are earning different salaries at the institution.

“Their sin is for demanding a remuneration structure at the institution.”

Denosa president Simon Hlungwani said only 5% of the nurses remained at the institution while key service units such as casualty, ICU and neonatal ICU did not have nurses.

That meant Lesotho was not in a position to provide high-care health services to all its citizens as Queen Mamohato Memorial was the only facility that provided such a service in the country.

Hlungwani said the government of Lesotho must not allow its citizens to suffer because of the Tsepong Group’s poor labour-relations management.

“The self-righteous behaviour by Tshepong will only bring disaster and more suffering to the people of Lesotho, because those who can’t afford to come to South Africa for care will either die at home or will die in facilities due to no capacity to care for them as they will be needing high care.

“The Tsepong Group is also transferring the health-care problems of Lesotho to the South African health-care system and health-care workers unnecessarily.

“Many patients, including the management of the same Tsepong Group, will have to travel to health-care facilities in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, or the Eastern Cape, over a matter that they could have resolved easily.

“This is because there are no nurses who have done the specialist courses needed to operate the machines and equipment at the tertiary hospital.

“Once the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic arrives in Lesotho, it will surely wipe away many patients, especially the elderly and those with comorbidities, as they quickly suffer severity of infection and will need high care in the form of ICU and would need oxygen, which can only be provided at the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital,” Hlungwani said.

The nursing union said it supported its sister organisation in Lesotho, the Lesotho Nurses Association, in calling for the implementation of a salary structure.

This will bring labour peace and a positive environment for many nurses who are aggrieved, Hlungwani said.

“All our thoughts and prayers are with the nurses of Lesotho.”

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