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The president opened the National Nursing Summit with a call to bolster and improve the profession and health care in general.
THE National Nursing Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre opened on Tuesday, 5 April with President Jacob Zuma calling on the nursing profession to strengthen the effectiveness of the country’s health system.


President Jacob ZumaPresident Jacob Zuma addresses the National Nursing Summit (Photo: GCIS)The summit runs until 7 April and is attended by retired nurses, student nurses, nurses from public and private sectors, nurses unions, regulatory bodies and representatives of the nursing and midwifery professions, among other professionals in the sector.

It is held under the theme “Reconstruction and revitalisation for a long and healthy life for all South Africans” and comes just as the health minister grapples with improving performance and efficiency in the public health system, and improving human resource development and management in the sector.

“Nursing in South Africa continues to be plagued by many challenges such as training, ethos and standards, professionalism, attitude and staffing norms despite [the profession] being the backbone of health care systems around the world,” admitted Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the minister of health.

Zuma said the summit had been convened against the background of national priorities to which the government had committed itself. “In the health sector, nurses are a pivotal service delivery unit. We have to change the way the public service works otherwise there will be no improvement in service delivery,” he said.

The summit follows similar meetings the president has held with other people in other public services, including the police, municipal managers, directors-general and school principals. “We are today formally bringing that message to the country’s nurses,” he said.

Education and training
Issues to be discussed at the summit include the reconstruction and revitalisation of the nursing profession; nursing education and training; the ethical and value system of nursing; planning, resourcing and financing nursing; creating an enabling environment for nursing; and the role of nurses in the improvement of health care.

“Together with the nursing profession we have decided to convene this groundbreaking summit to respond to the many challenges facing us,” Motsoaledi said.


A career in nursingTraining of nurses should be improved, says Health Minister Elias Motsoaledi (Photo: GCIS)The summit also aims to look at how nursing education and training can be improved to align it to patient and community needs. Discussion topics on the programmeinclude “Improving the production and training of nurses through linking theoretical and practical training” and “How to retain and attract new nurses”.

The health ministry says feedback from these discussions will be consolidated into a National Nursing Compact and Roadmap which will guide the profession. “We believe in solutions by nurses themselves, while not abdicating our primary role of providing leadership in the health sector,” said Motsoaledi.

Zuma said the summit should unpack the role of nurses in a new society, “a society in which our people are protected by a Bill of Rights in a progressive Constitution”.

Job creation
In his state of the nation address earlier this year, the president said the government planned to revitalise 106 nursing colleges countrywide, to train and recruit more nurses and doctors.

“Our focus on nurses is not misplaced. Nurses are central to the achievement of health revitalisation goals, given the role they play in the health system,” Zuma said.

The government has set four primary goals to improve health care by 2014, including increasing life expectancy, reducing mother and child transmissions, combating HIV, Aids and tuberculosis, and strengthening the effectiveness of the health care system.

Zuma told delegates that the era of the rude, uncaring and impatient civil servant or nurse must be a thing of the past. “The attitudes must change. We must shorten the waiting times or delays in receiving care, and health services personnel must ensure that all facilities are clean and tidy at all times,” he added.

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