Plight of com­mut­ing nurses

Observer on Saturday - - News - By Ackel Zwane

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.

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