Disgruntled nurses threaten to join their Tšepong counterparts in new strike

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. . . unless the govt addresses their grievances in seven days

Limpho Sello

THE Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) has threatened that unless the government addresses their grievances within seven days, the rest of the nursing fraternity will join their Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) counterparts on a strike that could bring the entire health system to a virtual standstill.

The nurses are aggrieved by what they say is the government’s alleged failure to offer nurses “support and protection” thus leaving them “vulnerable to the deadly Covid-19 virus”.

LNA President Raphael Tlali and some of the association’s executive members on Tuesday presented a petition to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s office. They gave the premier seven days to address their grievances, failing which they would take “drastic measures”.

Some nurses who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, said the phrase “drastic measures” was merely a euphemism for a strike.

Their main grievances include the government’s failure to pay them outstanding risk allowances for their frontline work in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the payment of salaries of nurses who were engaged for the Covid-19 fight.

They also want the premier to address the long-standing salary grievances of QMMH nurses and nursing assistants.

QMMH nurses and nursing assistants have been on strike since 1 February 2021 to press the government and hospital management to award them salary increments to match their counterparts in other government and private institutions.

Part of the nurses’ letter which was received by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kemiso Mosenene, states that, “The LNA is seriously concerned about lack of support, protection, recognition of nurses and nursing assistants and nursing students in this era of Covid-19.

“This renders nurses and nursing assistants vulnerable to the deadly virus. Nurses and nursing assistants constitute 76, 6 percent of all health workers and they are the only health workers who are with patients 24 hours a day.

“From birth to death, government is responsible and accountable for the provision of quality and comprehensive services to the people of Lesotho. It is therefore important for government to protect the nursing fraternity in order to sustain the health care system as well as achieve quality health services,” Mr Tlali said

Some of the key grievances listed in the letter by Mr Tlali are: “the protection of QMMH nurses and nursing assistants in respect of their rights; pending risk Covid-19 allowances; payment of nurses engaged under Covid-19 with immediate effect and the restructuring of the retention packages of nurses and nursing assistants”.

“Because of the urgency of the aforementioned grievances, the LNA recommends that the government addresses these issues as a matter of urgency. Failure to act will force nurses, nursing assistants and nursing students to take drastic measures,” Mr Tlali said.

On his part, Mr Mosenene said he would inform the nurses of the premier’s response as soon as they had discussed the petition. He said he hoped Dr Majoro would appoint an inter-ministerial committee to look into the nurses’ grievances.

Last year in April and in July, nurses, doctors and other health workers threatened “drastic measures” before going on strike to protest the government’s failure to address their demands for Covid-19 risk allowances and personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield them from the deadly virus.

The strike only ended after the government committed to paying the risk allowances and securing PPE.

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