The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) congratulates Mrs Elizabeth Irofor her appointment as Chief Nursing Officer at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and hopes this move will once again put the many nursing issues on the urgent agenda of this global health organisation. She was the President of Cook Islands Nursing Association prior to her appointment.
DENOSA particularly congratulates both the International Council of Nurses (ICN), which DENOSA is affiliated to, and the recently-appointed Director-General at WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for putting their heads together to ensure that this appointment becomes a reality as soon as possible.
Since 2007, it has been a serious concern to nurses that the number of nurses serving at WHO's highest decision-making structure has been at a perennial decline. Particularly concerning was the demotion of a Chief Nursing Officer role at WHO to a part-time position. DENOSA was impressed when the WHO DG, during his campaign for appointment to the current position, committed to appointing a nurse executive when he is appointed; something that he has achieved already.
Globally, nursing as a profession is faced with many challenges, and the absence of a Chief Nursing Officer at WHO has always been a contributory factor in prolonging these pressing issues without any tangible solution. With over 8 million shortage of health workers globally, shortage of nurses makes up the majority in this case. DENOSA is committed to working with Mrs Iro in finding solutions to the many nursing challenges globally and in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
DENOSA is confident that the office will provide the much-needed highway for nurses globally to work towards achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. “As DENOSA, we are proud that Dr Tedros as DG of WHO is from Ethiopia, in the region that is riddled with burden of diseases,” says DENOSA President, Simon Hlungwani. “We are confident that the urgent need to appoint a Chief Nursing Officer on his part is influenced by his own first-hand experience of many health challenges that Sub-Saharan Africa is faced with. We appreciate this move greatly, as it shows a positive spirit of bringing solutions to global health challenges holistically.”
DENOSA encourages all member-countries of WHO to seriously consider appointing Chief Nursing Officers in their countries, so that nursing issues could be tackled from a relevant accounting office as healthcare system globally is made up of majority nurses. In South Africa, DENOSA had campaigned for the establishment of the Chief Nursing Officer position within our Department of Health, as well as the establishment of similar offices in provincial departments as a way to create synergy in how nursing issues are tackled. We are proud that this was realized in 2014 when the Chief Nursing Officer was appointed at the National Department of Health, and few provinces have already established these offices.
DENOSA urges all those provinces that have still not established the offices of Chief Nursing Officers and Nursing Directorates to fast-track the process of establishing them. This is because proper functionality of nursing in the departments of Health are only possible when Chief Nursing Officer positions and Nursing Directorates have been established.
Where these offices have been established, however, they are still faced with challenges of staffing and reluctance to delegate the necessary functionary powers to it. DENOSA had called for the person in this position to report directly to the Director-General. We still hope this will come to fruition, as it will speedily resolve the many nursing challenges in the country such as chronic shortage, improper HR planning, inadequate equipment and resources and poor support for health workers generally in health facilities.