Nurses are under the gun

21 April 2015 - 02:17 By Sipho Masombuka

Nurses are scared at work and are even denying patients access to healthcare due to safety concerns, with calls for national government to take over security at public health facilities. This comes as the Mpumalanga department of safety, security and liaison reduced the number of guards at hospitals and clinics due to budget constraints.The reduction of guards at health facilities has led to some 24-hour clinics shutting at night due to safety concerns, with seemingly deadly consequences.Francinah Hanyane, of Lefiswana in Mpumalanga, said she was turned away at Lefiso clinic, even though she was pregnant and bleeding, because there were no security guards.She was referred to Mmametlhake Hospital, about 50km away."I would not have lost my baby boy had they helped me at the clinic," she said.Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA president Simon Hlungwani said nurses were vulnerable in the workplace."Anyone can just walk in with a gun and that's it. It is really a scary place to work, particularly at night," he said.The number of guards at Lefiso clinic, where a man threatened to shoot nurses in 2008, has been reduced from four to one per shift.At Mmametlhake Hospital the number has been cut down from 10 to five a shift.Psychiatric patients attacked nurses there twice in 2012."We constantly have to look over our shoulders," a nurse said.Mpumalanga department of safety, security and liaison spokesman Joseph Mabuza said the number of guards had been reduced due to cash constraints."The department reduced the number of guards according to the needs of the sites," he said.Mabuza denied that clinics were not operating at night due to lack of security, but The Times visited three clinics after hours and found the doors shut.SA Medical Association public sector head Dr Mahlane Phalane said security at hospitals and clinics was a concern nationwide, saying the only solution was for the government to take over safeguarding facilities and staff."There is no standard operating procedure in securing health facilities to ensure minimum required standards."It should encompass areas like casualty, where drunks attack nurses, maternity or neonatal sections, where babies are snatched, and at nurses' and doctors' quarters. This is not happening."Department of Health spokesman Joe Maila said taking over security at state health facilities was a decision already taken by the government but that it would not happen overnight...

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