In February this year, the Department of Health presented to the Health Portfolio Committee on the community service placements for medical doctors, pharmacists and professional nurses. The Portfolio Committee indicated that last year there was an outcry regarding the placement of health graduates. The Chairperson indicated that he has personally received complaints from nurses who had not been placed, despite the Minister’s commitment to ensure that there will not be a shortage of placement vacancies. Despite this, graduates with nursing qualifications have still not received community service placements which has prompted Solidarity to issue an urgent request to the Department.
The following figures relating to the community service placements of nurses were presented by the Department in February 2017:
- 3 140 total applications were received
- 2 873 candidates were placed and placement was declined by the applicant.
- There were 266 placement pending applicants.
- 52 applicants who studied at Gauteng College will only be placed from April 2017 due to delayed examinations.
- Several provinces requested re-allocations of nurses placed which increased number to be placed since 30 January.
- 47 late applications were received in January 2017 and those applicants would be placed in April 2017.
The Chairperson indicated received complaints from graduates who were not placed. He explained that the majority of applicants are on NSFAS and from Tshwane University of Technology.
The Chairperson noted that the list of unplaced graduates was forwarded to the Department. The Chairperson was told by the Office of the Minister that the number provided was not even a complete number, and that the number of unplaced graduates exceeds what the chairperson has received.
According to the Chairperson, the graduates were offered placements in 2016. However, “since January they have been told stories by the officials. They were told that Gauteng and Mpumalanga do not have the budget to place them, therefore they should speak to the North West province. The North West district claimed not to know about this on the day of placement.”
Below is the Solidarity press statement:
In an urgent letter to the Health Department and the Health Minister, trade union Solidarity warned that two qualified nurses, Juan-Ri Theunissen and Dané Hertz who have not been placed in community service positions since the beginning of the year, must be placed within seven days (27 June 2017). Should the Department fail to comply, the trade union will be obliged to investigate alternative legal pathways.
This follows after the two applicants’ applications for community service placements had been approved at certain hospitals, and then these placements were withdrawn in a very controversial way. The parties were informed of this decision by SMS.
According to Anton van der Bijl, head of Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practices, the applicants were merely informed that their placements had been irregular. “After making enquiries about this, the parties were informed after two months, on 12 January 2017, that state bursary recipients had to be placed first and that they could apply again during the third placement phase, which had already closed on 1 January 2017,” Van der Bijl said.
Van der Bijl also explained that the Minister and/or Health Department had failed in their duty to place the nurses in community service positions, as required by law. “Consequently, the nurses have been without jobs for the past six months, placing them at a disadvantage because they cannot complete their nursing qualifications without completing their community service year. In addition, both applicants have been deprived of six months’ income,” Van der Bijl said.
Solidarity has requested the Department and the Minister of Health to urgently confirm the placements so that the applicants may pursue their careers and contribute to the economy.
Solidarity currently offers a dependable service to approximately 140 000 members in all occupational fields, collectively and professionally, and has the passion and knowledge to look after its members’ interests and to ensure that their rights are protected in the workplace.