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Nursing body wants Netcare out of Lesotho

Queen 'Mamohato Memorial Hospital

March 15, 2021 3 min read

3 min read

THE Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) is adamant that even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government should sever its ties with Netcare after the consortium dismissed 345 health workers last week.

The partnership between the government of Lesotho and the Tšepong Consortium (Netcare) is an 18-year contract aimed at co-financing, designing, building and operating the Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital (Tšepong) at an onsite gateway clinic and three filter clinics.

The consortium is responsible for delivering clinical and non-clinical services as well as staffing and monitoring related activities of the project.

For a long time, nurses and nursing assistants working for the health facility have complained about being under paid yet they are the backbones of the health care system in Lesotho.

After Netcare clearly failed to heed the grievances of the health care workers at Tšepong, LNA has finally called on the body to leave Lesotho as the nursing outfit feels that it no longer renders essential tertiary care to Lesotho and its people.

The nursing body contends that Netcare exploits local health professionals while successive governments fail to intervene in a country where the unemployment rate as per the UNDP Human Index, 2015 sits at close to 40percent.

LNA further shows that only about 5percent of specialist nurses have remained at the hospital.

President of LNA, Raphael Tlali said currently there are no nurses in the casualty unit, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the general wards, adding that the neonatal ICU has also shut down.

He said this happens at a time when Lesotho is preparing for a  possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, as the previous two waves have shown, will need patients to be cared for in ICU, when they develop severe infection.

“Without the ICU, many patients will die at home or at the facility if they are not referred to the neighbouring countries because there are no ICU trained nurses beyond the specialist nurses who have been dismissed by the institution,” LNA also said.

The association also noted that for nurses to be trained in ICU speciality, they must go to South Africa in order to learn how to operate the high care machines and equipment.

The bone of contention which the hospital is refusing to acknowledge, LNA says is the low morale and disgruntlement of the nursing staff over salary disparities and under payment that is taking place at the institution.

The association argues that at the health facility, nurses who have studied the same specialty course and have the same years of experience earn different salaries although they do exactly the same work for the same number of hours.

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LNA is also disturbed by the manner in which the nurses’ dismissal letters were issued, adding that could easily have led to nurses being assaulted by law enforcement agencies.

It says the nurses were made to wait for long hours at the hospital until the curfew, thus posing danger of arrest, with the majority of them not having personal vehicles and easy access to public transport to take them back home. 

Last month nurses showed their displeasure and called on the hospital to implement a salary structure in the workplace.

Tšepong serves as a national referral facility and is viewed as central to the on-going improvements by the government. The hospital forms the pinnacle of an innovative structured landmark Public Private Investment Partnership (PPIP).

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