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MBABANE – ‘We are not working’ is what many patients heard from nurses at the Mbabane Government Hospital.

When the hospital was visited at around 10am on Wednesday, there were long queues of patients awaiting treatment. however, they were told to seek services at the pharmacies as the nurses were not prepared to attend to them.

“Asisebenti lamuhla (we are not working today),” this reporter was told in one of the consultation rooms. Most of the patients received the same message after paying for the cards at the Out Patient Department.

 Upon visit to the OPD, the nurses were found in a meeting in one of the conference rooms, with some of them seated outside the conference room.
 The situation was monitored by the Royal Eswatini Police Service under the Intelligence Bureau Department (IB).

The patients negotiated for refunds after they were turned back at the consultation rooms. However, they were not given their money back.
One of the patients said, “Batsi thathile thathile (they say there are no refunds as the ticket expire after seven days.”

“It’s high time government recruits nurses from the army so that they can take over. Any civil servant can go on strike but not nurses. I think the primary duty for nurses is to save lives, so who is saving lives if they decide to go on strike,” said one of the aggrieved patients who was at the hospital to extract a tooth.
The patient was among those who tried to reason with Comfort Shongwe at the Dental Care Department.

“I can only do one favour, that is to prescribe medication to relieve your pain, otherwise I am not going to extract any tooth today. In order for us to attend to patients, there should be an involvement of nurses and ex-rays. This process requires medication, so what can I give you?” asked Shongwe before collecting the tickets from the patients.

When Shongwe left with the tickets, the patients were of the view that he would extract their teeth and prescribe the medication. They gathered at the door but when Shongwe returned, he gave them back their cards and advised that they should go to the pharmacies to buy the prescribed medications.

The patients were grateful for what Shongwe did. “This man is a problem solver, he doesn’t want to see people frustrated. We appreciate the prescription,” they said. Some patients were not content when turned back. They claimed that they arrived at the hospital as early as 5am but nobody informed them about the proposed strike.

In some wards, doctors were attending to patients.
Also turned back at the hospital were inmates who were brought to the institution by the officers from His Majesty’s Correctional Services. Normally, inmates are given preference, however, they were the first to learn that nurses were not ready to attend to them.
“They just told us that they are not working today,” said the warder who was turned back at the Dental Care Unit.
 Notably, the patients who were at the hospital to collect or refill their medication were attended to. These included those who were treated for diabetes among other diseases.

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