… And Vent Their Anger

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK “We are sick and tired. Enough is enough. We are simply overworked and underpaid!” These were the slogans with which nurses yesterday voiced their grievances for what they termed the appalling working conditions and poor salaries that they have had to endure for a long time now. Despite the stern warning from the Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi, not to go on the planned demonstration yesterday the nurses were adamant that they would not be intimidated into standing back. “If he threatens us again, next time we will go straight to his office, even straight to parliament,” said one nurse holding a placard that read: “Dr Kamwi please talk to Nanu and do away with threats.” Standing outside the Central Hospital premises shortly after handing over the petition, the fed-up nurses were all too eager to vent their feelings when New Era arrived. It appeared from the raised voices that for them nursing is no longer just a calling, but rather a valuable profession for which they want to be properly paid. The income at the end of the month does not make ends meet for most of them in the nursing profession, they claim. “We are just fed up. I am working seven to seven every day and my salary is just the same as a first-year graduate nurse from university and I have been here for 30 years,” said one, throwing up her arms in despair. They further complained that some of them who even have postgraduate degrees or four-year diplomas from university are being paid the same as first-year level entry nurses at the hospitals. “There is a no respect for us nurses and we are having a tough time. Look, look at my hands, they are worn out. We do all the dirty work and we don’t have a choice because it is our bread, but it’s not enough,” lashed out another nurse, adding that setting aside some taxi money just to come to work is a struggle in itself. She said that most of them have to clean away blood and other human waste without proper protection, as there is a shortage of equipment. Most of them fear being infected with HIV and other diseases. Generally, most of them felt that as nurses they were not cared for at all or even recognised for the hard work they do for patients every day. “Like if there’s a shortage of nurses, we have to help even if we are tired. We even have to do the doctor’s work. We are totally burnt out,” shouted another in frustration. Besides grievances about the working conditions, the nurses complained about the poor state of the Central Hospital that is infested with various pests. “There are mice running around at night over the patients – what can we do about that?” was another concern. “There are even live worms and cockroaches in the hospital – go and have a look yourself,” said another nurse who walked off in anger. “This is not a hospital, it’s a pigsty!” shouted an infuriated nurse. While those who were on duty went back to work that day, the majority of them simply just went home after the demonstration ended.