The Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) yesterday petitioned the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoH&W) on safe and secure working conditions for nurses in Botswana.
The petition started off with a march from Gaborone Senior Secondary School grounds to the ministry. In the petition that was handed to the ministry, BONU president Obonolo Rahube stated that nurses play a critical and indispensable role in the health sector and therefore deserve to be safe when serving the public and saving lives.
“The nurses’ nature of duty demands a safe and secure working environment for them to be safe and to carry out their duties without any looming threat to their psychological and physical security. For years, nurses have endlessly complained and raised concerns about their security in health facilities.
“Quite regrettably nurses’ cries have fallen on deaf ears and those in charge have done virtually nothing in order to attend to this issue,” he said. Rahube further noted that as a result nurses found themselves in the unpardonable situations where they have to risk their lives in order to ensure that the nation continues receiving the required health care.
He said it has become a compromise of self-sacrifice for nurses to serve the community while MoH&W remains ignorant that nurses need a safe and secure working environment at all times.
“It is heartbreaking to note that many of our health facilities do not have effective security features. Health workers are therefore exposed to high security risks. These risks extend from loss of personal property, physical assaults and harassment, and rape and murder. It should further be noted that the exigency of health care services and serving of the community’s health needs is vital during and beyond normal working hours, that is from 7.30am to 4.30pm,” he noted.
He said that though such services are esteemed and remain vital for their community, the ministry had not provided necessities that address the welfare of persons expected to conduct health interventions during the ‘call to duty’ periods.
He said the ‘call to duty’ periods included hours of the entire night where nurses are left exposed to all forms of dangers imaginable.
Rahube further expressed grave sadness and distress by the most recent incident in which a nurse who was on night duty within the health premises in Extension II Clinic was brutally raped.
He continued saying that was not the first event as there had been many more traumatic cases in the past, which BONU consistently complained about and highlighted in their dialogue with the relevant authorities, but nothing was done whereas the situation worsened.
In an interview with the head of the Greater Gaborone, District Health Management Team (DHMT) Dr Godfrey Simoonga, he said the ministry was currently reviewing incident reports from the security and health workers. He explained that the ministry was guided by the health and safety standards for clinics in order to ensure the safety of its staff and clients.
“The health and safety element in the accreditation process also covers this aspect. Extension II Clinic is currently undergoing accreditation. The 24-hour security services have been outsourced for the clinic and all the clinics in the Greater Gaborone DHMT. There are other additional measures put in place to ensure the safety of staff, clients and government property,” he said.
He added that lighting systems for external and internal parts of the clinic are available, fencing is in place, burglar bars to windows and doors have also been fitted. He said there was also controlled access to document rooms and CCTVs in some pharmacies.
Several measures were put in place in order to enhance the security at the facility. These include the doors leading outside areas into the pharmacy, kitchen and laundry being locked in the evening till the next morning, broken emergency exit doors being replaced, contractors on site undertaking works and burglar door located at the toilet areas being repaired to ensure that they are locked and secure.
Simoonga added that they would strengthen security coverage in their clinics, and will have one entrance that would be accessible during night times and emergency exits will only be used for emergencies and there will be a visitor register placed at the entrance. He said on the fateful day, three night security guards were on duty.