Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Kwazulu-Natal: As the number of health workers infected with the Coronavirus continues to rise, Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says no nurse will work without the necessary protective gear.

Mkhize said this during an International Nurses Day commemoration event in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday.

International Nurses Day recognises the significant contribution that nurses make to society.

Mkhize was speaking as the world marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the foundational philosopher of modern nursing.

The Minister and his Deputy, Dr Joe Phaahla, together with MECs for Health in all nine provinces held a special candlelight ceremony for all nurses in the country.

He said of 11 350  confirmed COVID-19 infections in South Africa, 580 of those were health workers, including nurses, doctors both in public and private sectors.

Mkhize said nurses are in the frontline against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the department, we recognise the need to prioritise the nursing profession, along with the wellbeing of the nurses and strengthening nursing education and training and practice.”

At the ceremony, Mkhize also paid tribute to Cecilia Makiwane, who was born in Alice, Eastern Cape. Makiwane became the first black woman to be licensed as a nurse in 1908.

Mkhize said he also regrets that Coronavirus, which has infected over four million people across the globe, has cost the lives of health workers.

“Their contribution towards the fight of the pandemic is immeasurable. May their families and their loved ones find strength in the shared memories and may their soul rest in eternal peace.”

He said the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) plan this is year is to improve the public’s understanding of the contribution that nurses and midwives make in their communities.

“The critical role that our nurse play in protecting our community could never be overstated,” he said.

“In many ways, they’re the face of our healthcare.”

Mkhize also commended nurses on their efforts against the pandemic.

“For most our communities, a nurse if the first to be seen at the time of birth, a heartbeat of the health system throughout a lifespan providing preventative, curative and rehabilitative care and often the last to help close our eyes at the time of the end of life.”

He also recognised nurses’ compassion and comfort they have shown towards COVID-19 patients who often cannot be with their families at their bedsides.

“It’s the best gift to our patients that no amount of money can buy.”

According to the WHO, nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers, yet 5.9 million nurses are still needed across the globe.

Mkhize commended President Cyril Ramaphosa for urging provinces to fill frozen vacant nursing posts during, and beyond the pandemic.

The Minister was resolute that health workers be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the necessary tools of the trade.

“I’d like to affirm our commitment that no nurse will be allowed to care for patients without appropriate protective equipment be it at a community level, during screening or testing, or in the health facility.”

He also said he understands that the job is emotionally taxing and that its mental impact will remain post-COVID-19.

“We’re committed to supporting them to deal with any immediate physical and mental health issues that may also emerge in the future.”

The Minister thanked nurses for their contribution.

“To all the nurses of South Africa and the world, we say a big thank you for carrying the burden of the COVID-19 outbreak and serving humanity and saving lives.”