Hundreds of unemployed Eastern Cape nursing graduates from Lilitha Nursing College plan to start an indefinite sit-in at the provincial Department of Health offices in Bhisho on Wednesday, demanding placement letters which they claim were promised to them by the department upon completion of their nursing qualifications.
But department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo yesterday denied the department had made this promise, saying it had stopped automatically placing Lilitha-trained nurses in 2012 due to budget constraints.
According to one of the jobless graduates, Sabelo Matiwane, who graduated from Lilitha in 2014, Wednesday’s sit-in would continue until they had been placed in public clinics or hospitals.
This is not the first time the group has acted against the provincial department. On February 1, they marched to Bhisho in an attempt to get the government to address their situation.
Matiwane said they were now no longer interested in negotiating with the department – they were emanding employment which they believed would go a long way towards improving ailing public health care in the province.
“Since graduating, we have been hoping to be absorbed by the government to help improve public health care, but [the] majority of us remain jobless years after completing our nursing qualifications.The dream of healing our people is slowly fading,” Matiwane said.
“Clinics and public hospitals across the province are understaffed, yet many of us are unemployed while the department goes around saying they are employing when they are not.
“Therefore, on May 3, we are not going to take anything less than placement letters because we are no longer interested in endless negotiations and excuses.”
Kupelo said the department was not obliged to absorb Lilitha graduates, especially if there were no vacancies.
He said the Lilitha nursing graduates were free to apply for jobs anywhere they pleased.
“Due to budgetary constraints, the department has been unable to absorb all trained nurses, except in the professional nurses category, who are supposed to do compulsory community service in government health facilities,” Kupelo said.
He said the department would be advertising clinical posts this week, which included nursing posts, and all who were qualified could apply.
He could not immediately specify how many nursing vacancies existed across the province.