MEC Ramathuba: Nurses are the backbone of the health care system

Cathrine Rampedi

Nurses are the face and the backbone of the health care system in the country. This is according to the MEC for Health in Limpopo, Dr Phophi Ramathuba. Speaking at a Nurses Summit at Bolivia Lodge in Polokwane on 31 May 2018, MEC Ramathuba hailed the role played by the province’s nurses in the provision of quality health care.

“Nurses are the face and the backbone of the health care system.  When you save one life you are a hero but when you save thousands of lives you are a nurse. What differentiates the department of health with other departments is that there is no recovery plan, hence every life must be prioritised,” says MEC Ramathuba.

She said “nurses are there to perform duties that no one can perform; they are the first to welcome a new life, and the last people who are there when patients take the last gasp”

Celebrated under the International Council for Nurses (ICN) theme, ‘Nurses a voice to lead-health is a human right’, the summit was held to commemorate the international nurses’ day, which is celebrated annually on May 12.

The nurses summit was centred around five key topics namely: Nursing education, Nursing leadership, off duties, Availability of resources and Primary Health Care (PHC) 24 hours services.

All the five districts in Limpopo - Capricorn, Vhembe, Mopani, Sekhukhune and Waterberg - were given the opportunity to voice their concerns and propose solutions to the department. The summit was also aimed at providing nurses with the platform and opportunity to engage on challenges that they face within the nursing fraternity.

The nurses told the summit that Human Resources departments should include them in skills development training decisions, because they know the specialities that they need. They complained about high vacancy rate at senior management level, saying this resulted in different nurses acting at different times, which caused instability. The nurses said lack of resources resulted in poor services which caused much litigation in the department.

In her response, MEC Ramathuba said the gathering should present a paradigm shift on how the department views and tackles challenges faced by nurses and the health profession in general. She said nurses should use the summit to influence health policies, planning and provision of health care.

Ramathuba took a resolution to establish a task team through the office of Head of Department, Dr Ntsie Kgaphole. She said the task team will address all the issues and concerns raised by the nurses to ensure that the department improved on service delivery.

In honour of the late Mama Albertina Sisulu and Florence Nightingale nurses lit the lamb and candles and took the nurses’ pledge of service. 

Eslyn Rasefate (85), a retired midwife nurse from Mankweng Hospital, was amongst the attendees. She said nursing remains a calling for her. “If given the opportunity to serve the department in maternity ward, I would do it without hesitation because the arrival of a new baby brings new meaning to life,” Rasefate said.

Earlier, Ramathuba had honoured nurses at a gala dinner held at Fusion Boutigue in Polokwane on May 30, 2018. She said the nurses who received the awards continued to epitomise the true spirit of the nursing profession by providing quality health care regardless of the challenges they faced.

The department celebrated hospitals that achieved zero maternal mortality rates and reduced neonatal mortality rates. Also Primary Health Care (PHC) that achieved platinum during the ideal clinic realisation and management were recognised.

At the award ceremony, Ramathuba was accompanied by Social Development MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana, Dr kgaphole, and representatives from Medi Clinic, University of Limpopo, HOSPERSA and DENOSA.

The following hospitals were recognised for their zero maternal mortality rates and the reduction in neonatal mortality rate in the province:

FH Odendaal Hospital achieved 6.8% reduction in neonatal mortality;

George Masebe 7.4%;

Witpoort Hospital 7.7%;

Botlokwa 9.8% and Musina Hospital.

According to the District Health Information, institutional maternal mortality ratio has decreased from 130/100 000 live births in 2016/2017 financial year to 110/100 000 live births in 2017/18 financial year.

The PHC facilities that obtained platinum status during the ideal clinic assessment and management include Elandskraal 97%; Phaahlamanoge 94%; Dikgalaopeng 93%; Hwelereng 93%; Mutale 93%; Diana 92%; Beaconsfield 92%; Riverplaats 92%; Rabali 91% and Mafefe 90%. The ideal clinic programme was initiated in 2013 as a way of systematically improving the quality of care provided in PHC.

Ramathuba, in her address said that part of the province is being utilised as a pilot in the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI). She said the success of the NHI in the province is largely dependent on how successful challenges are addressed in the department.