Govt speaks out against moonlighting nurses

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Johannesburg - Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane says public health nurses must decide whether their loyalties lie with serving state hospitals, or making extra cash by taking on additional jobs, which is often referred to as moonlighting.

"Nurses who are employed to work in public health facilities must make a choice whether they want to remain in the public health sector or if they want to moonlight," Mokonyane said at the first Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) conference for 2011.

Although it was not illegal, Mokonyane said government was concerned by moonlighting amongst nurses, as it resulted in them not giving their best when on duty in public health facilities.

Mokonyane acknowledged that the shortage of nurses was primarily due to numerous factors including poor working conditions, low remuneration, emigration, increase in chronic illnesses, as well as the burden of increased demand for care and services.

She said the pronouncement by President Jacob Zuma during the State of the Nation Address that government was going to revitalise 105 nursing colleges will go a long way in ensuring an increase in the number of qualified nurses.

"In our five year programme of action, Gauteng provincial government has come up with a number of initiatives including a turnaround strategy to revitalise clinics and hospitals, reduce long queues and improve the availability of essential drugs and medical equipment," said the premier.

She also appealed to nurses to commit to Batho Pele (people first) principles and the Patients' Rights Charter, adding that they should not tolerate anyone within their ranks who made a mockery of these ideals. 

Denosa President Dorothy Matebeni noted that nurses cannot divorce themselves from the current policies, which include the National Health Insurance.

"We need to understand our role as nurses because we are actually going to implement them [policies]. We are here to shape the future and need to work with government to improve health care services," said Matebeni.

She also encouraged nurses to become part of the solution in times of challenges, and to embrace change gracefully.

Denosa Secretary Thembeka Gwagwa said the conference was an opportunity for nurses to discuss matters which are important to them and come up with policy suggestions to improvement health care services.

"This time there has to be a way forward at the end of the conference. We have had a number of conferences before but nothing happened after, hence we've decided to organise this one ourselves," said Gwagwa, adding that research was currently being done regarding the issue of moonlighting.

"We need to discuss what we can do, instead of asking who is not doing what," said Gwagwa.

Themed 'South African Nurses Participation in Health Policies - Delivering Quality Care', the three-day conference aims to create a platform for all categories of nurses in South Africa to partake in policies pertinent to delivering quality health care under the three main themes: indivisualised care, respectful care and the professional component of care.