HISTORY: UNDERSTANDING THE NURSING CRISIS IN SOUTH AFRICA
There is serious shortage of professional and specialist nurses all over the world. Currently, there is an estimated shortage of 30 000 professional and specialist nurses in South Africa. The cause of the problem is complex, the start of which can be traced back to decisions regarding the training of nurses, made in 1995. Previously nursing was categorized as a critical skill, the training of which was fully funded by Government.
First, due to limitations in Government funding, only 30% of all university student nurses receive bursaries. The balance of 70% have the responsibility of raising personal tuition and residence fees.
Second, the 4 – year Diploma in Nursing Science was slowly replaced by a Bachelor in Nursing Science Degree, followed by 1 year Community service. A reduced number of Nursing Colleges offered the 4-year Diploma in Nursing.
Third, a number of Nursing Colleges were closed after 1994 in favour of University training for degree students. The remaining Colleges mostly offered the 2- year Enrolled Nurse Diploma and the 1-year Auxillary Nurse Diploma.
CAUSES OF THE GROWING PROFESSIONAL NURSE SHORTAGE:
- Presently, the South African Nursing Council Colleges and Universities combined, only have capacity for 2000 new recruits (student nurses) per annum.
- Less than half – about 48% of these students officially graduate each year!
- The NDoH financial budget for the training of nurses is inadequate.
- A large percentage of experienced nurses are reaching retirement age – 65.
- Others are leaving to work for better salaries and working conditions abroad.
- The pleasant working environment in the growing number of private hospitals attracts nursing staff away from Government Facilities. This exacerbates the staffing problem for the NDoH.
- Many nurses are unwilling to work in rural and township areas where medical care is urgently needed.
- The Nursing profession is no longer attracting academically strong, committed new recruits in SA.
- The Nursing profession is under-valued by society in general.
THE MAIN CAUSE OF THIS CRISIS
The Annual Budget Allocation from National Treasury to the National Department of Health is drastically inadequate to meet the nurse training PLUS the healthcare needs of our growing population. 187 Billion rand was allocated and spent during 2017, by the National Department of Health to provide healthcare for all. This figure translates to an amount of R 3 300 per citizen. (Trialogue 20th Edition). An estimated EXTRA 13 billion rand per annum is needed to bring lasting changes, towards improving healthcare for all.