MASERU — ‘Masello (not her real name) is a nurse in a remote health centre in rural Mohale’s Hoek.
She has been working there for the past three years and maintains that the terrain has made working there for her not the most ideal.
The only reliable mode of transport in the area is by helicopter or on horseback for hours and over cliffs.
“If you are not brave enough to ride then you would have to walk for long hours before reaching a place where you can catch public transport when it is available”, she says.
Now that she is in Maseru on a week-long leave she is making the most of services she can only dream of back in Mohale’s Hoek.
She says she makes the most of her leave to meet family and friends or chat over the phone and social networks with those she usually cannot reach.
For her, communication with distant people is a luxury compared to what she is forced to make do with while at work, she says.
The era of the walkie-talkie as the only means of communication could be a thing of the past for most, but health workers in remote posts are still stuck with them.
In the age where mobile phones and internet have eased message delivery, for nurses and their assistants in hard-to-reach clinics the outdated method of communication is the only option.
There is no mobile phone signal reception.
Nurses and their assistants in many rural health centers say they struggle to get in touch with their peers in other hospitals.
In their line of work, health workers say that all forms of communication are essential.
Without communication, they say they feel like outcasts.
President of the Lesotho Nursing Association, Monaphathi Maraka, says lack of communication is making working difficult for health workers in remote posts.
“Having clear lines of communication is important for those nurses. Now, without it they cannot get in touch with their colleagues. It becomes more difficult when they have a critical case and they have to make referrals,” Maraka said.
He says the situation is so dire that many nurses decline to take positions in such areas resulting in staff shortages.
“They say they feel disconnected from the rest of world and their loved ones”, he maintains.
Maraka says it would be helpful if government approached network companies to extend their services to such areas to make things easy for people.
He says the problem eased a bit after government gave out incentives for nurses who work in hard-to-reach remote health centres.
However, he says that many nurses are still not eager to go to rural clinics due to lax in security issues.
He says that in the past nurses have been attacked and their houses broken into by people who demand money.
“Many fear for their lives. There have been cases of assault and robbery in nurses’ residences. About two years ago there was a horrific case of a nurse in one remote clinic in Quthing who was brutally murdered at her residence,” he said.
He suggests that councillors and chiefs have to be advised to communicate with their people so that they understand the importance of keeping health workers safe for their own good.
“People should be made to understand that the safety of nurses is their responsibility,” he adds.
He says that another concern from nurses was working for long hours, night shifts and on weekends due to shortage of human resources.
“There is a shortage of human resources despite a big output of qualified nurses that graduate from tertiary schools every year.”
“The employers have to strengthen the system of hiring so that gaps can be closed.”
Other concerns include the delay in the supply of protective gear like masks or latex gloves, a problem which nurses say leaves them vulnerable to contracting infections.
Maraka says it is up to procurement departments to process orders on time.
“The delay in supply does not only end with protective gear or equipment, sometimes the procurement of medicine is delayed. Maybe the procurement departments should speed up the processing of orders.”