Nurses take care of a newborn baby at the Tangdu Hospital in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Feb. 24, 2016. The baby, born on Wednesday in Xi'an through frozen embryo transfer (FET), was fertilized over 12 years ago and became China's longgest preserved tube baby through FET technology. (Xinhua/Liu Tingting)

The severe shortage of nurses in South Africa is a “ticking time bomb” that requires urgent attention, said Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa (Denosa) in an interview with Xinhua.

Sibongiseni Delihlazo, national communication manager of Denosa, cited poor working conditions, inadequate resources and the burden of disease as contributing factors behind the shortage.

Denosa has issued a report, warning the healthcare industry is in incredible dire state as nurses were moving abroad.

“The shortage of nurses will explode in our faces one day. For instance, one nurse in a Kimberly hospital was looking after 27 patients alone. It’s very frustrating for healthcare workers because their capacity is not resulting in the positive outcomes in terms of health for patients,” Delihlazo said.

While some believe the system was collapsing, Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi conceded that it was “very distressed” and “going through a hard time.”

“The system finds itself extremely overloaded. This has resulted in very long waiting times in most of the facilities and lowering of quality in others,” Motsoaledi said.

As a result of the worsening conditions, skilled midwives were no longer willing to remain working in maternity units.

“Very few nurses are willing to work in maternity ward. In Tembisa hospital in 2017, they advertised 24 midwifery positions and only five people applied. The situation is frustrating and demoralising for nurses. Midwives are moving to other general wards. Midwifery is a serious challenge because you have babies and mothers that die in maternity wards,” Delihlazo said.

While the population was growing, institutions of higher learning were not producing enough nurses to deal with the challenge.

The closure of nursing colleges after 1994 has been blamed for the current shortage.

In his 2011 State of the Nation Address, the then President Jacob Zuma acknowledged the shortage and made an undertaking that 106 colleges would be re-opened to tackle the problem.
However, Zuma left office without delivering on the promise.

Responding to the issue, health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said: “the department is currently working on the ratios that will determine the required standards for the work loads of nurses and other health professionals.” Enditem

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