The Democratic Alliance (DA) cautiously welcomes steps taken by the Departments of Health and Higher and Tertiary Education to avert a nurse training crisis by agreeing to a transitional arrangement that would provisionally enable 10 public nursing colleges to offer Certificates, Diplomas and Bachelor’s degrees in nursing. The transitional arrangement was gazetted after the DA raised the alarm of the impending crisis when it emerged that the process of accrediting new and current nursing institutions countrywide had been stalled.
Had this undertaking not been made, public nursing colleges and institutions of higher learning would have stopped offering nurse training as the old legacy programmes were due to come to an end on 31 December 2019. The arrangement will continue until such time as the colleges are declared as one of the institutional types contemplated in the Higher Education Act, 1997.
While the DA acknowledges the intervention by Ministers Zweli Mkhize and Blade Nzimande, we caution that the number of universities, public and private colleges able to offer nursing training remains hopelessly inadequate to address the growing healthcare needs of ordinary South Africans:
- In the Eastern Cape, for example, the number of accredited Universities has dropped from three in 2019 to one in 2020. There were six private colleges and 16 nursing schools operational in 2019. In 2020, there are only three private colleges and no public colleges or nursing schools operational.
- In Gauteng, there were seven Universities (including satellite campuses) and five public nursing colleges operational in 2019. This has dropped to two Universities, five nursing colleges and seven private colleges operational in 2020.
- In 2019, there were three Universities offering training in KwaZulu-Natal, 11 nursing colleges and nine nursing schools. In 2020, this figure has dropped to zero Universities and 11 public nursing colleges
- While Mpumalanga boasted one nursing college and 13 nursing schools in 2019, there are no nursing training facilities available in 2020 in Mpumalanga at all.
- Even the Western Cape has seen a dramatic change in the numbers of accredited facilities in 2020 with only three Universities (and satellite campuses); four public colleges; and two private colleges – down from four Universities; four colleges and five nursing schools.
The DA will continue to use every avenue available to ensure that the ANC does not collapse our primary healthcare system as a result of its lack of commitment to nurse education. Instead of forcing the implementation of the unsustainable National Health Insurance (NHI), the ANC government should address the potential 400 000 nurse shortfall that is expected in 2025.