No danger pay for Cape psych nurses despite promises
Nurses in psychiatric wards have missed out on allowance for a decade
The Western Cape health department has not paid psychiatric nurses danger allowances for the past decade despite the approval of such a resolution at a bargaining council.
Only in November last year, it started paying 838 nurses whose jobs were “genuinely posing a risk to their lives” a danger allowance of R450 per month.
The provincial department has blamed the national department for the situation, saying it failed to provide them with implementation guidelines.
Yet nurses in the rest of the country have been getting this allowance for years because the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) adopted a resolution in 2007.Now unions want answers from the Western Cape health authorities.
The 2007 resolution is currently being reviewed by the bargaining council and this could see danger allowances extended to other nurses.
Provincial health spokesman Mark van der Heever said they could not pay for 10 years because they had requested guidelines from the national Department of Health as well as the Department of Public Service and Administration, to “ensure consistency and a uniform application of the danger allowance". However, there was a “a lack of clear implementation guidelines”.
“In view of the above the payment of a danger allowance could not be instituted,” said Van der Heever.
“The danger allowance is currently still under review in the PSCBC but the [provincial] department has taken the initiative to identify certain categories of nursing staff working within identified psychiatric units (which genuinely pose a risk to their lives) for the payment of a danger allowance."
When health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo tabled her budget late last month she said nurses at selected mental health units were getting danger allowances “for the first time”. Times Select established that 838 nurses in the province have been receiving R450 per month since last November.
In a circular by the provincial health department dated December 19 2017 only a few psychiatric wards – mainly in Cape Town – were identified “for the payment of danger allowance”.The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa said the Western Cape was the only province that had not paid the allowance.
“Nurses all over the country have been getting danger pay,” said Denosa spokesperson Sibongiseni Delihlazo, adding that the bargaining council was currently reviewing the resolution which could make nurses at casualty wards and TB clinics eligible for the allowance too.
Delihlazo explained that many nurses based at psychiatric facilities work under difficult circumstances. In 2016 a nurse was hacked to death by a patient in Limpopo.
In 2012 a research paper by UWC student Zintle Charles Sobekwa reported some horrifying experiences of nurses working at psychiatric hospitals.
“Working here I get lot of experiences. Like I was working with 30 patients on night duty and the patient asked for a cigarette and I told the patient that: ‘No, you already smoked.’ But I did see the patient come back as I was busy with my admin work and she pushed me against the wall and I could not reach the phone.”
By the time security personnel arrived, “I had scratches all over my face because the patient was fighting me, my neck scratched and the blood was all over”, one nurse was quoted as saying.
Another said: “I can’t really remember the year ... but that year, I was bitten here in my waist by the patient who has syphilis.”
Denosa will be raising the failure to implement the 2007 resolution at the provincial bargaining chamber soon. And health union Hospersa is doing the same.
“Hospersa is currently addressing the exclusion of certain nurses at the Provincial Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council,” Marthenique Marinus, provincial secretary for Hospersa in the Western Cape, said in a statement to Times Select.