The Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) have given the Ministry of Health and Wellness a total of 30 days to act on ensuring the availability of conducive grounds that will ensure the safety of Nurses in the workplace failure which they will seek alternative routes to get the ministry to act.
“A petition is a legal document and we expect the ministry of health and wellness to act in good faith. We have in our possession minutes that prove we have over the time engaged the ministry to no avail hence the petition was our last resort. We have had enough, and when somebody says enough is enough it means they just cannot take it anymore,” BONU President Obonolo Rahube told this publication.
BONU members embarked on a peaceful march on Thursday, which started from the GSS grounds in Gaborone to the Ministry of Health headquarters , where BONU President handed over a petition to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Ruth Maphorisa/
The petition comes after a nurse was raped at Extension two Clinic while on duty. It is understood that this is not the first time health workers were attacked on duty at night.
“We are gravely saddened and distressed by the most recent incident in which a nurse who was on night duty within the health care premises in Ext.2 Clinic Gaborone was brutally raped. Our deepest concerns, prayers and thoughts go out to her as she deals with the traumatic ordeal. The lamentable reality is that it is not an isolated incident. There has been many more in the past which we have consistently complained about and highlighted in our dialogue with the powers that be. Yet, nothing has changed and the conditions continue to worsen,” said Rahube.
According to BONU President the Extension 2 clinic incident is not an isolated event as several other horrendous incidents have been reported before albeit no action from the ministry.
This Rahube said includes: an incident in which nurse was murdered at Radisele in February 2014, while called to attend “call to duty” at night, an incident in which a nurse murdered at Phase 4, Gaborone in 2013 while knocking of evening shift, during the night hours of the day, from Molepolole, commuting from Gaborone daily. Another incident in which a nurse was gang raped in 2013 in Oodi coming from an evening shift, an incident in which a nurse was attacked in Maunatlala in 2017 when she was awoken at night to attend to a patient and another one in which a nurse was attacked in Mokhomma clinic in April 2015 in an unsecured institute house and robbed of her belongings and car.
The union leader bemoaned that this were but a few reported incidents ‘let alone the daily assaults that happen to nurses in their different health care facilities, that the Ministry of Health and Wellness is aware of but have buried them in forgetfulness’.
“It should be taken to note that the above incidents have been raised with the Ministry of Health and Wellness on several occasions yet without any advancement by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to address the matter. Recommendation that were put forth by the Botswana Nurses Union have not been take heed of, thus leaving the security of nurses unattended,” he said.
The Union subsequently demands among other things efficient, trained and professional security personnel to be engaged at all different health care facilities across the country to protect on priority personnel that render service to the community while on duty and installation of electronic security device (CCTV, alarms, panic buttons and access cards) at all health care facilities.
They also demands that nurses be transported to and fro their dwellings over the night hours of the day, including such nurses expected to cover “call to duty”. And that nurses be accommodated adjacent to and/or in such areas where they can easily be transported to and fro duty during the night hours of the day.
In light of the incidents that happened in the workplace the union also demands that an effective and trained security personnel to always be present within health facilities and be involved during the collection of nurses on “call to duty” and that safety at the workplace should be a priority and a long term plan for Ministry of Health and Wellness.
When receiving the petition, Ministry of health and Wellness Permanent Secretary assured the union that their petition will be taken very seriously, she also thanked BONU and its members for the civil manner in which they have conducted the protest and aired their grievances.
Maphorisa however acknowledged the fact that she could not respond to the demands raised by BONU instantly but assured them the ministry will look into appropriate measures to respond as soon as possible.
“It is not the ministry’s intention to take issues of security lightly,” she said, adding that “It is within our mandate to make sure that there is safety for all health workers not only nurses in their workplaces,”
Though she acknowledged the fact that she was new in the ministry, Maphorisa promised to act on the matter promptly. According to the permanent secretary due to financial constraints, together with the union, her ministry will sit down and prioritise on which issues to act on promptly.