Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has dedicated International Nurses Day to the healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 and the nurses in South Africa who paid the ultimate price for it.

Mkhize was leading a virtual celebration of the day from the King Edward hospital in Durban on Tuesday.

Nurses’ selfless work was honoured across the country with candle lighting ceremonies.

International Nurses Day celebrates the dedicated contribution of nurses around the world. This year the focus is also on the brave nurses treating COVID-19 patients.

Mkhize has called on health workers not to lose hope, but to remain brave and gallant soldiers in fighting the pandemic:

More than 5 00 healthcare workers, including nurses and doctors, have so far tested positive for the coronavirus in South Africa.

This year the International Day also marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of world-renowned nurse, Florence Nightingale.

MECs for Health together with a small group of nurses across all nine provinces held a special candlelight ceremony and read the nurse’s pledge. Some nurses in Mpumalanga say they will continue to perform their duties with commitment and dedication, despite the complaints they often receive from the public.

Nurses from the Phola Manzini Clinic, near Hazyview, say the risk of contracting the coronavirus does not deter them from working hard to save lives.

“‘I’m so proud that I’m still here, still standing and doing my work very well. So, this facility is a very busy facility and we have a headcount of 9.5 per month with the deliveries of plus or minus 56 per month,” says one of the nurses.

However, healthcare workers in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality feel they are exposed to unnecessary risks during the COVID-19 epidemic. Staff members at Uitenhage Provincial hospital also downed tools over the lack of safety gear.

“I am here today, not that I’m trying to neglect my patients. I know I made the vows and pledged for nursing, but the situation we are working under is very dangerous. We are at risk. They want us to nurse COVID-19 patients without PPE.”

Minister Mkhize says he is committed to ensuring that no nurse will be allowed to treat or screen COVID-19 patients without critical Personal Protective Equipment.

“We are resolute in ensuring that all health professionals are provided with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment and requisite tools of the trade. As we celebrate our nurses and midwives, I would like to affirm our commitment to ensuring that no nurses will be allowed to care for patients without the appropriate protective equipment. Be it at a community level during testing and screening or in the health facility.”

Nurses in rural communities are still faced with many challenges: 

Some nurses in Mpumalanga say the negative complaints that they often get from the public, do not discourage them from performing their duties with passion, commitment and dedication.

Most of the nurses say they joined the profession to care for ordinary people’s lives.

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country is humbled by the bravery and commitment by nurses to put the lives of the public at large and their patients first.

The graphic below shows the breakdown of nurses statistics in South Africa: