Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Gov’t and nurses in a game of brinkmanship

Botswana Nurses Union which last week lost its legal battle against government is now threatening a go-slow industrial action as the last resort should government insist on not providing them with food, transport, quarantine, isolation centres and accommodation at Boarder Post.

The tense relationship between Nurses Union and gov’t seemed to be escalating to a game of brinkmanship this week after the courts failed to resolve the industrial dispute.

Trying to down-play the tension, BONU President, Bonolo Rahube told Sunday Standard that they will exhaust all the channels before arriving at the alternative solution of going slow. He warned that going slow would collapse the entire nursing systems leading to death of patients.

Rahube said they will “rigorously demand that government provide the necessary resources to fight the pandemic e.g. PPE’s, accommodation to nurses at border post, quarantine and isolation centres”

BONU lost with cost a case in which they were suing government to provide them with Protective Equipment, transport and to be quarantine in isolation centres during Covid-19.

“We are not appealing the case and we are putting our energy into fighting covid-19 and government officials should do everything to protect us by way of providing us with necessary resources, ‘said Rahube.

The ink has hardly dried on the court judgement, but BONU and government have already opened another front.

BONU National Publicity Secretary Aobakwe Lesole issued a statement this week expressing discomfort at the manner in which   the acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Baile Moagi’s announced COVID-19 working shifts without consulting them, arguing that it is against labour laws.

In the statement BONU said, “just few days back at court, the employer made it clear that she can’t provide nurses with transport and accommodation during Covid-19 and is now making some shift changes which are against labour laws.”

The statement further revealed that, “there is already shortage of staff in healthcare facilities and the health care workers are already demoralized and fatigued by the fight against Covid-19. The government decision to announce suspension of overtime, is proving the bumbling blunderbuss effect going on in the government enclave’, said Lesolame

The Nurses said the PS’ decision was uncalled for and advised government to establish a scientific and reasonable nursing shift schedule.

“Our concern as Nurses is that the newly announced extended shifts may cause overlapping shifts which may force Nurses to put on and take off PPE’s twice a day and will increase medical resource consumption, long hours of work might push their physiological limits, which might lead to mistakes, hazards and risks,” said BONU in a statement

BONU called on government to employ unemployed Nurses who are roaming the streets.

A source inside Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) said they are not happy with the outcome of the case because they lost the suit on the basis that they failed to provide enough evidence in court because some of the nurses were afraid to be victimized by the employer. The source said that alone made their case weak especially that some nurses were not willing to provide confirmatory affidavits substantiating their position that government does have enough Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPE’s) and that she is supposed to subject them to quarantine and isolation. (PPE’s)

In his judgment, Justice Radijeng said the nurses had failed to provide evidence to prove that they are entitled to free transport.

He said government had set out evidence that present a picture of detailed account of status of measures to ensure the safety and welfare of health professionals at all the Covid-19 cites in Botswana.31st March 2020.


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