Plight of commuting nurses
While institutional housing is progressing at own pace, some nurses travel from home to their workplace four hours every working day yet travelling allowances are also slow to come by.
This is the plight of nurses in the country’s major health centres, namely Mkhuzweni, Dvokolwako, Nhlangano and Sithobela. A number of those interviewed revealed that they wake up as early as 4am to prepare for work and also assist their children to get ready to go to school before embarking on the arduous journey of catching public transport to work.
With an average of close to 40 staff members in Dvokolwako and Mkhuzweni while Nhlangano and Sithobela have a staffing complement of about 100 nurses for 100 beds there barely is enough accommodation for most of them. Houses from the community are hard to get but some residents have invested in constructing houses to rent out to civil servants. In Dvokolwako along the Mbuluzi River a resident has constructed eight units that are entirely occupied by nurses while government is slowly building the same number of units adjacent the hospital.
In all these institutions the common effect of the shortage of housing is arriving late for work and fatigue. Nurses are also forced to leave the work station early to rush for transport home which is normally scarce as most public transport is leaving the urban areas to rural areas where these institutions are located.
Some of them normally start work as late as 9am if they happen to miss the transport provided by the institutions. Transport allowance is a lengthy process that involves filling of forms and when the nurses are reimbursed it is often at given intervals. The allowance itself falls far too short of the commercial rates charged by public transport, it is less than half of what is charged by the public transport operators. “We are forced to supplement the travelling allowance with our salaries, which makes any increment meaningless,” says one nurse. Returning home at the end of the day is nightmarish with kombis waiting to fill-up before departing to say Manzini.
From Dvokolwako, for instance, the kombi first enters Luve where it makes yet another stopover waiting to fill up thus causing another delay with nurses arriving to their destinations as late as 7pm of every working day. Quite often the passengers are moved to another kombi which will also wait to fill up.
SUITE: The effects of snail pace construction of institutional housing felt heavily by nures. The eight units are expcted to house 38 nurses.