Maputo — The main challenge currently facing Mozambican health staff is to reduce waiting times for patients in the country’s hospitals, declared Deputy Health Minister Nazira Abdula on Wednesday.
Speaking at the opening of the Fifth National Meeting on Nursing, Abdula insisted that “when we provide nursing care, we should do so with zeal, courtesy, promptness, empathy and humanism”.
Patients were people in need, and “we must always bear in mind that the user should be the centre of attention in the health services”, she declared.
But Rita Mondlane, the head of the nursing care department in the Health Ministry, complained that the shortage of nurses has implications for waiting times in the health units.
Staff shortages, she insisted, were no way to improve the quality of care in Mozambican hospitals. She warned that only improvements in the living conditions of nurses would prevent qualified staff from fleeing the public hospitals and taking better paid jobs with NGOs instead.
There has been talk about nurses going on strike, although the Mozambican Association of Nurses (ANEMO) has declared its opposition to any such drastic move.
Nonetheless, said Mondlane, it was important that the authorities should show some sensitivity towards the concerns of nurses.
“We are aware that we shall not solve our problems by going on strike”, she said.
“That’s why we decided to send a letter to the Ministry of Finance, proposing that our wage scale be reviewed. We don’t want to go on strike. We hope that the government will know how to solve our problem peacefully”.
Mondlane did not say how large an increase the nurses have requested. The current basic wage for a nurse is 4,000 meticais (about 133 US dollars) a month. The wage increases with experience and qualifications. A nurse with a university degree earns about 23,000 meticais a month.
There are about 8,000 nurses in Mozambique, for a total population estimated at 23.7 million, giving a ratio of one nurse for 2,960 people.