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PROTESTING NURSES ‘HIJACK’ MINISTER’S EVENT

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MBABANE – After petitioning government without receiving any responses, nurses at the Mbabane Government Hospital ‘hijacked’ the Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi’s mission to commission a neonatal intensive care unit to raise their concerns.

To make their presence felt, the nurses assembled next to the referral new wing where they sang struggle songs, just as the minister’s event to deliver speeches began. Nkosi and her delegates, who included the British High Commissioner, Simon Boyden, and the UNICEF Representative, Amina Mohammed, started at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where they observed the donated equipment worth E6 million.

Equipment

The equipment includes radiant warmers, incubators, blood gas machine, therapeutic cooling machine, ventilators, infusion pumps, mobile X-ray, monitors and phototherapy lamps. As speeches continued at the newly-constructed Referral and Emergency Complex, nurses staged a protest behind the building where they sang struggle songs, protesting over drug shortages and food supplies. However, they stopped singing as they were called to order and reminded about the government procedures whenever they wanted to send grievances to the minister. The health workers stopped singing and waited for Nkosi to finish with the event. Immediately after minister Nkosi had finished with the neonatal commissioning event, she went straight to the protesting nurses to listen to their concerns.

Unsuccessfully

Addressing the minister, the Unit Committee Vice Secretary, Lindiwe Zwane, said they had no working tools at the hospital yet it was a referral. Zwane said after unsuccessfully petitioning the ministry, they decided to seize the opportunity as they heard that the minister would be visiting the hospital. She said the challenge was still food supplies for patients and drug shortages. According to Zwane, they had received donated food parcels which were not enough. She also mentioned that they were faced with fuel and transport challenges, stating that the employees were forced to hire private cars after knocking off late from work as there was no transport.

“We have run from pillar-to-post seeking assistance, but have not received any feedback.” Zwane pointed out that another challenge was that of the abandoned ‘children’ who were living at the hospital yet it was not a residential area. She pleaded with the minister to grant them permission as her ministry failed to address the issue of the abandoned children to visit the Deputy Prime Minister’s (DPM) Office on Monday to resolve the issue.

Furthermore, she stated that after visiting the DPM’s Office, they would go to Parliament to seek the legislators to fast track health matters. Zwane said health was an essential service that was being looked down upon, while other service providers within government structures operated smoothly, including the police.
Reiterating the vice secretary’s statement, Mfundo Mthethwa, who is the Deputy Chairperson of the Mbabane Government Hospital Unit Committee, said by staging the protest, they wanted the minister to notice them as they were seeking her attention after delivering two petitions without getting a response.
“We will wait for her until she finishes the event as we desperately want her to address us following the concerns that we have been directing to her office through the petitions,” the deputy chairperson mentioned.

Concerned

He said as health workers and advocates, they were concerned about their patients’ health status, which was their responsibility. According to Mthethwa, they would not turn a blind eye while patients admitted to the hospital starved. He stated that nutrition was paramount and was a basic need, adding that nothing should stand in the way of patients’ diet. “You cannot take away the basic need of a person who is already compromised,” Mthethwa said. He said children who were malnourished were also admitted to the hospital and by not getting the right diet, they were being pushed closer to death.  

Concerns

Responding, Minister Nkosi said they were addressing the concerns of drug shortages and food. She said concerning the drug shortages, it was not an issue of budget, but it was beyond them as the country received a bulk of its medicines from India. “We received a communiqué from the suppliers last year to the effect that due to COVID-19, they had failed to secure some of the ingredients and orders would be delayed.”

She said they eventually received the medication, but the gap was too much which was why some facilities still experienced the shortages. Nkosi reminded the nurses that there were procedures which had to be followed when sending grievances and not the manner in which they had handled the issue to ‘hijack’ her event. The minister said she appreciated and acknowledged their concerns either way as they were genuine.

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