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Two views of nurses from South Africa's "The Star"

January 16, 2004 -- An article by Solly Maphumulo in today's edition of The Star highlighted the serious health effects of a shortage of nurses in South Africa's clinics, while in a piece two days earlier, Nalisha Kalideen had cited nurse Dr. Connie Kganakga, a leader in providing HIV/AIDS care, as one of the "50 women to watch in 2004."

Maphumulo's story, "Shortage of nurses raises blood pressure," reported that one nurse had been "forced" to run a busy Lenasia South clinic by herself for two weeks because three other nurses were on leave. This resulted in patients waiting days to be seen, as well as a hot, angry crowd outside the clinic. One father was apparently at the clinic for the second day trying to get his daughter a vaccination so she could attend school. A mother of a baby whose "condition had deteriorated" waited until the afternoon of her second day at the clinic before giving up and walking home. The piece provided needed context in statements attributed to City of Johannesburg spokesman Mbangwa Xaba, who noted that at the area's clinics, two or three nurses were typically expected to care for over 70 patients a day, leading to high staff turnover. He also noted that recruitment was difficult for clinics in remote areas, and that, as the Star put it, "nurses were also being lured into lucrative employment opportunities abroad." Thus, the article rightly cited factors contributing to the shortage, and showed the harsh effects of the lack of nursing care. The only thing missing: the author failed to consult a single nurse for her perspective on the crisis.

Kalideen's piece listed as one of the "50 women to watch in 2004" Connie Kganakga, who has a PhD in nursing and has just been appointed Chief Director, HIV/AIDS at South Africa's Department of Social Development. The brief item notes that Kganakga "helped develop a nurse-based model for the anti-retroviral rollout in rural areas while working at the Nelson Mandela Foundation." The item also includes an ambitious quote by Kganakga about helping communities take "ownership" in mitigating the impact of the epidemic, and her department's desire to provide socio-economic support so that "prevention, care and support become a reality."

See Solly Maphumulo's January 16 article "Shortage of nurses raises blood pressure" and Nalisha Kalideen's Jan. 14 article "50 women to watch in 2004" in South Africa's The Star.

Our executive director sent the following letter to The Star's editor:

Dear Editor:

I wish to send my thanks to Solly Maphumulo and Nalisha Kalideen for recently covering nurses and their work. Maphumulo's Jan. 16 article "Shortage of nurses raises blood pressure," aptly described the devastating effects of the global nursing shortage on patient care. Of course, the article would have benefitted if Maphumulo had consulted a nurse for the nursing perspective. Ms. Kalideen's Jan. 14 article "50 women to watch in 2004" highlighted the work of Connie Kganakga, who has a PhD in nursing and has just been appointed "chief director: HIV/AIDS" at South Africa's Department of Social Development.

We believe that one important way the media can help to resolve the nursing shortage is to highlight the work of nursing experts to help the public better understand what nursing is. Increased public understanding is the mission of our international NGO, and such media coverage (with our noted exception) by your two authors is exactly what we need to help people understand why they should become nurses and why more resources should be directed toward the nursing profession. We have posted our analysis of the two articles on our website. Please pass on our regards to Solly Maphumulo and Ms. Kalideen.

Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937


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