Healthworkers unite for positive work environment

Healthworkers  unite for positive work environment

Health professionals working in public facilities around the country have come together to campaign for a better working environment and improved services for patients.

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Nurses, under the banner of Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) and doctors from South Africa Medical Association (SAMA) and other stakeholders launched the Positive Practice Environment (PPE) campaign at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town yesterday.

Public health facilities serve more than 80% of the South African population and are often criticised for being inefficient, with  health workers usually blamed.

PPE aims to draw attention to the debilitating conditions at most public health facilities, which are largely beyond the control of medical staff. PPE will also provide healthcare workers with an opportunity to discuss these conditions and find ways to improve them.

The PPE campaign is based on seven pillars: safety, payment of workers and suppliers, resources and equipment, education to ensure professional development, timeous supply of medication, support of staff and respect for the profession.

One of the biggest points of discussion at the launch was the need for partnerships between health care workers and government to facilitate PPE, as well as buy in from communities.

“Many of us have come to realise that if we simply wait for government to deliver services, we will wait for a very long time,” said Dr Mark Sonderup, vice chairperson for SAMA.

“The time has come for us as health care workers to roll up our sleeves and see what we can. This is fundamental to the PPE campaign, which calls for changes to the public health care sector – changes that are desperately needed.”

Western Cape Health MEC Theuns Botha expressed the Department of Health’s commitment to support the PPE campaign.

“Fixing the state of health care requires everyone’s participation. It cannot be achieved by government alone or by medical staff alone . It requires significant collaboration and partnership. I want to take up that challenge,” said Botha.

Dorothy Matebeni, National President of Denosa, highlighted the importance of medical staff working alongside communities to improve health care facilities. Matebeni spoke of a clean-up campaign launched under the banner of PPE in a hospital in the Northern Cape.

“Nurses and doctors came to clean the hospital. Community members came to paint the hospital and they helped to bring beds, equipment and materials to the facility. It showed that the staff and the community wanted their hospital to be at a standard where each and every community member can be proud to use it,” said Matebeni.

The first phase of the campaign will focus on safety and payment.

“The pillars of this campaign rest on safety. If we look nationally we have reports of nurses and medical students being attacked and raped, reports of doctors being stabbed to death and security guards being beaten up. And this is never acceptable – safety is a non-negotiable,” said Dr Sonderup, who wore a bright red t-shirt bearing the slogan “Advocating for Positive Practice Environment”.

Botha echoed this concern. “Annually we have been spending more and more money on safety and security and we are now spending almost R100 million a year on security alone. And we are not getting the service that we are paying for,” he explained.

As a result, the issue was now being dealt with by the Department of Community Safety who have appointed an independent company to provide security services.

The other issue that will be focused on is payment.

“In places like the Eastern Cape, health workers are employed for two or three months without receiving their salaries. This is unacceptable,” said Matebeni.

“In a nutshell, the PPE campaign is about being proactive, not reactive, and constructive rather than destructive. We need to develop a health care system that we can be proud of and that we would be proud to use,” said Dr Sonderup. – Health-e News Service.