Saturday, January 22, 2022

Nurses and teachers “go slow” paralyze health and education services

The grieving family of a patient who died on the way to Julia Molefhe Clinic in Gaborone Block Nine was stranded with a corpse for more than five hours in the sunny parking lot because there was no doctor to certify him dead; Patients at government clinics are having to wait for up to 14 hours for medical attention; Those suffering excruciating pain are being sent home without any pain killers.

In government schools, students studying for examinations in two weeks do not have teachers to help them with the revision.

These are some of the incidents that underline the mood of crisis in government hospitals, clinics and schools around the country, following a decision by nurses and teachers to boycott duties they are not paid for.

At Julia Molefhe Clinic the problem assails you as you enter the building. Patients, mostly women, sit in long rows on wooden benches waiting for their turn to see a doctor. Many more are forced to wait on the floor. The sick mostly have their eyes closed in pain or exhaustion. Those who do not wear a haunting stare of fearful resignation.

Clinic staff told The Telegraph that with nurses refusing to do routine tasks like consultation, dispensing drugs and extracting blood samples for medical examination, doctors are struggling to cope with the increased workload.

“A corpse was left out in the sunny parking lot for about five hours this morning because the doctor was tied up in his consultation room and there was no one to certify the corpse. Patients’ health is at risk and service standards are suffering,” said a distraught staff member.

Teachers at government schools told the Telegraph that “after we have put in our eight hours of work, we pack our books and go home. We no longer stay behind to help students who are preparing for their examinations in two weeks. We have suspended all extracurricular activities”, said one teacher at a government secondary school.

The crisis in government schools, clinics and hospital follows a deadlock in talks between the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and the five unions under the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions: Botswana Public Employees Union; Botswana National Amalgamated Local, Central and Parastatal Workers Union, Botswana Teachers Union; Botswana Secondary Teachers Union and Botswana Land Boards Local Authorities and Health Workers.

Earlier this month, BOFEPUSU gave DPSM a seven day ultimatum to address their grievances: “We have mandate to thereafter take all measures necessary to ensure that Nurses like all other workers comply with the Nursing & Midwifery Act ( i.e. to say, to commence performing only those duties they are required to do in terms of the law). We trust that you shall revert to us soon. In the interim we shall be communicating to our members to re-adjust their working arrangements to ensure that our members carry out only prescribed nursing duties,” stated a letter from BOFEPUSU Secretary General Andrew Motsamai to the DPSM.

A similar letter was written on behalf of teachers demanding overtime payments. The letter stated that, “in the interim we shall be communicating to our members to re-adjust teaching time tables to fit within the prescribed 8 hour schedule”.

Motsamai confirmed to The Telegraph that they have told nurses not to do anything outside the prescribed nursing duties and the teachers not to work beyond eight hours until their demands have been addressed.

“There are long standing issues affecting teachers and the nurses. Until such time that their concerns have been addressed they will do that work for which they are paid,” said Motsamai.
He said nurses are not supposed to do consultation and prescriptions, as they are neither paid nor trained to do those duties.

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