HEALTH centres around the country are beset with an acute shortage of nurses that has crippled the health delivery system, Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) Secretary-General Mateboho Khoanyane has said.
She said the shortage of nurses affected critical health centre activities such as the running of outpatient clinics and inpatient care in wards.
“There is a serious shortage of nurses at health centres, leaving patients with no option but to wait in long queues to get medical assistance,” said Ms Khoanyane.
“Every year, many nurses graduate, but some of them end up sitting at home waiting to be hired by the government. It’s sad that people continue to suffer while we know the personnel gap needs to be filled at our health centres for them to provide quality health services to the public.”
She said Lesotho today joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Nurses Day (IND) despite the myriad challenges facing the country’s health-delivery system. IND is celebrated around the world on 12 May of each year to recognise the contributions nurses make to society.
The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is widely considered the founder of modern nursing. This year, the commemorations are set to be held under the theme “Nurses: A Force for Change: Improving health systems’ resilience”.
On his part, Health Minister Dr ‘Molotsi Monyamane said the ministry had so far hired 400 nurses and would employ 500 more by the end of June to alleviate the challenge.
“Indeed the situation has been difficult considering that when a patient goes to a hospital or clinic, the first person they deal with is a nurse before being seen by a doctor. And when doctors are not enough, we encounter challenges,” Dr Monyamane said, adding that they had also employed 35 doctors.
“For the hiring of health workers to be possible, M37 million was allocated to our ministry. Hopefully, in the next five years, pharmacists and environmental health assistants will also be hired.”
He said hiring nurses had been a challenge since 2012 because it needed the approval of the Public Service Commission (PSC). The minister said the best way forward was the establishment of a health service commission since the PSC was overburdened because it catered for other ministries.
“We were given the go ahead to draft a law that would see the establishment of a health service commission. If such a commission becomes operational, the staff shortages we are facing will become yesterday’s news,” Dr Monyamane said