The Midweek Sun
Nurses threaten to stay home, demand security
BONU laments poor conditions of work for members
The Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has pleaded with government to intensify security at public health facilities as violence against nurses in Botswana still remains a concern.
BONU is afraid that they will soon order nurses not to go to their work stations and clinics when there is no security provided. They recalled that five years ago a nurse died when knocking off from a late night shift, and two years ago, a female nurse was raped in Mochudi at her staff house.
Statistics show that 10 nurses are raped in Botswana in a year and there are about 10 to 15 cases of assault against nurses, some of which happen in health facilities during working hours. In one incident, an offender pounced on a nurse and raped her in her home.
In another incident, a nurse was kidnapped from her house and raped along Gaborone-Molepolole road, while another was raped on the way to work when they were on ‘stand-by,’ because there are no proper arrangements for transport to pick them during ‘stand-by’ hours. BONU President, Peter Baleseng says it is about time a lot is corrected to empower a nurse and protect nurses to allow them to serve diligently. He said there are many issues that need to be addressed and nurses’ security should be prioritised, as there is so much gender violence in their profession. Other challenges that they continue to experience include dispensing of medicine by nurses, delayed progression in payments, lack of accommodation and delayed transfers among others. BONU is of the view that essential service goes along with provision of accommodation and therefore nurses should have proper accommodation facilities. Baleseng indicated that services from clinics have become similar to those at health posts but there is no accommodation at health posts and this frustrates nurses who have to work under such conditions.
He also noted that nurses’ accommodation in Kasane and Shakawe is very expensive, and therefore it is important for the government to consider making provision for the health professionals.
He said nurses are often made to carry out duties of a superintendent or matron by acting on their behalf, something the union is against. BONU also laments that nursing is not necessarily recognised as compared to medicine and so they plead with the employer to look into this. For transfers, Baleseng made it known that some nurses haven’t been transferred in a long time, while others overstay at villages, saying the Ministry should therefore come with clear guidelines and policy for swapping of staff members as some nurses already have 15 years working in rural areas. Another challenge is that the Ministry has increased intake of student nurses across institutions and therefore BONU is skeptical about this and wonder how these people are going to be assisted when other graduates still cry about lack of permanent employment. “The ratio on this issue is 20:1 and this means a serious challenge as the situation degrades health as a profession and the standards of Botswana when it comes to health services,” Baleseng opined. They also lament that DPSM has promised private practice license holders to be allowed to practice independently of government but that on a private level, it still remains a nightmare. Quizzed about the many nurses leaving to the UK, and how they intend to attract nurses to stay, Vice President of Labour and Bargaining at BONU, Oreeditse Kelebakgosi said that they are advocating for better conditions for nurses. “As a union, we are advocating for better conditions of service for nurses, and our view on nurses leaving for greener pastures outside the country we find this to be creating employment for unemployed nurses,” he said. He reiterated that shortage of nurses at workplace has always been there. “Even though this is the case we still however surprisingly see nurses being employed as temporary nurses,” Kelebakgosi told this publication.
BONU said having nurses work long hours and changing of office leaders, delays progress, and they applaud the new appointment of the Director of Nurses and Midwives, Khumo Mosadiemang which is the first ever. BONU is convinced that this will serve their interests better. He observed that they have been dispensing medicine for so many years and this is an expanded role that they should be paid for because dispensing increases workload.