Continuous brutal attacks on nurses in their line of duty has forced them to drag the employer-the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM)- to court should government fail to meet their demands for improved conditions of service.
Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) president Obonolo Rahube told The Patriot on Sunday in an interview on Friday that the continuous barbaric acts of violence, which are not addressed, leave them with no option but to seek relief through the courts. Nurses demand that DPSM works around the clock to implement the promises agreed to as endeavor to improve the conditions of services for the nurses.
Fresh incident of nurses being attacked while on duty occurred last week, when criminals attacked two nurses at a clinic in Broadhurst, Gaborone -a 24 hour operating health facility sparking public outrage. Another similar case occurred at Extension II clinic last year when a female nurse was raped by an unknown assailant while on duty. Disgruntled and frustrated by their poor conditions of service, Rahube said they have engaged DPSM and Ministry of Health several times to address the unbearable working conditions of nurses but without success.
Rahibe said they have given government up to next week Wednesday to deliver on their promises, failing which they will lodge a court case against DPSM. "We have given government through DPSM an ultimatum to fully address the welfare of the nurses, which is currently taken for granted. We have also copied the letter of grievances to president Mokgweetsi Masisi to make him aware of our intention to seek court remedy," Rahube revealed, reiterating that the recent attacks targeting nurses during working hours are worrisome as they continue despite government's promise to act on recommendations to improve security provision.
BONU president said it is clear that DPSM undermines nurses by issuing a statement about the Broadhurst clinic incident without even consulting the nurses representative union, which is recognised by law. He said such conduct is uncalled for, adding that they are not even convinced that DPSM implement promises to install CCTV cameras and upgrade security in health facilities where nurses continue to be brutalised by criminals."We are not happy about how DPSM conducted the matter. But let's wait and see if they will meet their promises any time soon because they said the same thing after the Extension II clinic rape incident but nothing has happened to improve security at that facility to date. It was just another empty promise as the latest one will turn out to be," he said.
In the statement complained of, DPSM announced the closure of the 24 hour services at Broadhurst clinic, saying the facility will only operate during the day.
Govt disappoints nurses
Rahube charged that government has dismally failed to accede to some of the solutions that the nurses have proposed to improve their welfare and safety while on duty. He said the government has promised to install the CCTV's cameras in health facilities that are mostly operating 24 hours, but nothing positive has materialised up to date. "We also proposed that the government provide transport for the nurses to and from work especially those who work night shifts. Government promised to do so but surprisingly there is still no sign of the promise being fulfilled, despite continuing attacks on nurses," a disappointed Rahube said.
Even the security personnel guarding health facilities are not well equipped to deal with crimes that nurses are exposed, he complained. Government seems to be enjoying these horrific incidents that endanger the lives of nurses, he said. According to Rahube even the general welfare of nurses is highly compromised because unlike other cadres in the public service they never get promotions, which is discouraging to the nursing professionals.
Rahube could not hide disappointment over the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Madigele, whom he accused of failing dismally in his duties as the political backbone of the ministry. He said Madigele has refused to meet BONU for consultations over nurses' grievances. Consequently, nurses are demanding that Madigele be relieved of his duties.
"Nurses are unhappy over Madigele's commitment towards attending issues affecting their welfare. We don't have any confidence in him at all. I don't even remember when was the last time we met him as a union to engage on the nurses' welfare issues," he quipped, adding that Madigele has ignored a petition which BONU sent to him last year without at least acknowledging receipt.
Efforts to solicit comment from Dr Madigele proved futile as his mobile phone rang unanswered on Friday.