Nurses and midwives who work in government clinics and health posts are planning to stop performing some of their usual duties and have approached the Lobatse High Court to authorise their intended action.
The judiciary is the last hope of the disgruntled health service employees to resolve the long standing impasse between these workers and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) together with the Ministry of Health in regards to the nurses’ duties.
The nurses’ trade union, Botswana Landboards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLHWU) has filed court papers through their lawyer, Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys to fast track the process.
The long list of the ‘non-nursing’ services that the nurses would not want to extend to patients include among others, medical consultation of patients and prescriptions of drugs, ordering laboratory specimen such as blood, stool, sputum and urine and to ensure proper transportation, screening of patients, dispensing of drugs and proper disposal of expired drugs, ordering, stock control, compiling statistical reports on attendance at the clinic. According to the disgruntled nurses, the services would only be performed by authorised prescribing practitioners.
Further in the list of not to do by nurses is the rationing of food to beneficiaries such as Tuberculosis (TB) patients, children under five and pregnant mothers whose rations are only given out at the clinics and health posts.
The nurses who are crying exploitation by their employer, the DPSM, further threaten to stop pottering of non-ambulatory patients, registering of birth and deaths, registering of vulnerable groups such as orphans, off loading of drug cartons from central medical stores and the collection and safe keeping of revenue.
To be able to off load the duties from their daily rota, the nurses would request the court to declare that the duties are not nursing duties. The matter has been filed before Justice Garekwe of the Lobatse High Court and the date of hearing is yet to be announced.
“The troubling question of the performance of non nursing duties by nurses employed by Local government at Clinics duties dates back a couple of years back. The Union has been at the forefront of it engaging stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health and the DPSM as the new employer,” explained BLLHWU’s Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa.
The nurses have confirmed that they perform the duties as they are expected and are instructed by the employer to do so as a matter of daily routine whether or not there is an emergency or other exceptional circumstances. According to the nurses, they have not refused to do the job for fear of disciplinary action which could include dismissal from work hence they need court protection.
The government has always maintained that the nurses have to conduct general duties because their numbers do not allow for specialisation.
In the nursing profession, there are authorised nurses who are exceptionally entitled to perform certain duties. Such nurses according to experts are trained to perform special duties such as midwifery, family nursing practice, community health nursing, ophthalmic nursing and others. However in so far as Botswana government clinics and Health Posts are concerned, the nurses practice general nursing duties as there is no distinction regardless of their qualification as they perform the same duties.
In fact the Ministry of Health including its Minister and Permanent Secretary has in several occasions cried foul of migration of nurses from Botswana to other countries. Some of the factors that they admitted causes the disgruntlement in the nursing field include, heavy work load, poor working conditions, high patient-nurse ratio, but has since failed to resolve the problem due to “financial constraints.”
“It is quite clear that the performance by nurses and midwives of non nursing duties on daily basis contributes directly to undesirable heavy-workload, generally poor working conditions and high patient-nurse ration as complained by the Permanent Secretary. This is inimical to the health of the nation, especially when this country continues to fight the effects of HIV and AIDS,” Motshegwa added.
In the past the nurses have threatens to stop performing the duties but the government continued to persuade them with promises to correct the problem. In 2011, scores of nurses alongside other public service employees went on a two month long strike which crippled the country’s health services among others. Some Health workers lost their jobs as a result of the strike and some had to re-apply for their jobs.
However, this time around, the nurses who have previously threatened to go on strike if these duties are not off loaded from their rota have made a wise decision to take the legal route since they are prohibited by law to strike.
Meanwhile it is clear that there is no consensus as on whether or not nurses are entitled to perform the duties in question and it would be in the interest of the public that the court gives direction on this because the continues dispute over it threatens the health of the nation.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”