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Free State looking for nurses to bolster fight against COVID-19

Staff Reporter

The Free State province is calling on all unemployed nurses and those who are retired to come forward and assist the province in the fight against COVID-19.

Health MEC Montseng Tsiu told The Free Stater that the province would like to sustain its vicious fight against the pandemic and more nurses are urgently needed.

“We want more nurses to help in the tracing of the contacts of those who test positive,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of a handover ceremony of blankets and other goodies donated by ABSA to nurses across the province at Pelonomi Hospital this Saturday morning.

“You know we don’t have a lot of money but we’ll see what we can do. We need as many nurses as possible to assist us. I can’t give an exact number right now but it’s urgent. There is a lot of work to be done,” she added.

Tsiu however stressed that for the retired nurses or those who had left the public service and were willing to come back, they should be below the age of 60, given that the coronavirus tends to have a more devastating effect on elderly people.

In March, Free State Premier and Tsiu told a media briefing in Bloemfontein that the province would be hiring at least 1 000 nurses on contract to man isolation units in hospitals across five districts while some would help in the tracing of contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.

Earlier, during the handover ceremony, the MEC said the government should invest more in nurses because they play a key role in the health delivery system.

“We want to invest in nurses because they help us achieve our health goals,” she said.

“Nurses account for more than 90 percent of the work done in the health sector, yet there is a shortage of about 5.9 million nurses in the world.”

The exact figures for the Free State were not immediately available but the 2018 annual statistics from the South African Nursing Council (SANC) — which is the latest available information on its website — indicate that the province had 8 182 registered nurses, 2 286 enrolled nurses and 2 930 auxiliaries, giving a total of 13 398.

The SANC is the body entrusted to set and maintain standards of nursing education and practice in South Africa.

Tsiu also praised nurses for their hard work and selflessness particularly now when the world is faced with the COVID-19 pandemic.

ABSA’s managing executive for relationship banking Stonie Steenkamp said the blankets given to nurses were a token of appreciation for their work.

“The work you’re doing every day is appreciated. The health sector is the country’s frontline defence in the fight against the pandemic, but right in the frontline of that defence, are the nurses,” he said.

“So, as ABSA, we felt we would like to acknowledge their courage, their hard work and their vocation. So, this is just a very small gift for their hard work.”

ABSA gave about 2 500 gifts to nurses in the central region and at least 14 000 across the country.

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