Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa: DENOSA 20 year celebration

Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 20 year celebration of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA), Union Buildings, Tshwane

Programme Director, Mr Tim Modise,

Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaatla,

General Secretary of COSATU, Bheki Ntshalintshali,

President of DENOSA, Mr Simon Hlungwani,

Members of the National Executive Committee,

Former Leaders of DENOSA,

Distinguished guests and delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to address you on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA).

Exactly 20 years ago on this day, former President Nelson Mandela lauded the launch of DENOSA as a turning point in the history of the nursing profession in South Africa.

Until then, nursing in this country had been largely defined by the racial divisions of our past.

President Mandela would surely be pleased to know that DENOSA has chosen as its theme for this celebration, "Twenty Years of Unifying Nurses."

We celebrate with DENOSA that together we have done away with race-based nursing organisations.

Together we have done away with a racially segregated health care system that rendered inferior and undignified public health services to the black majority.

Working together, we have transformed an unequal, fragmented public health system into an inclusive, integrated and comprehensive national service.

Working together, we have expanded access to health care, especially to disadvantaged, poor and rural communities.

Working together, we have been building a cohesive national health system that prioritises primary health care.

We have built new clinics and new hospitals.

Together, we are investing greater resources and expanding efforts to prevent diseases and promote healthy lifestyles.

In celebrating your milestone achievement, we must recognise that South African nurses are critical agents in the restoration of the dignity of our people.

Not only do you heal the wounded and care for the sick.

Not only do you save the lives of babies and mothers giving birth.

Not only do you help to repair broken limbs, treat burnt bodies and cure ailments.

You work to relieve suffering and rekindle hope.

Throughout its 20 years, DENOSA has mobilised its members to maintain the integrity, respectability and profile of the nursing profession.

It has consistently worked against prejudice, stigma and discrimination.

It has promoted the equal rights and dignity of all patients, regardless of their HIV status, regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of their race or economic circumstances.

We express our heartfelt gratitude to DENOSA for appreciating that without a unified, professional, ethical, dedicated and caring service to all patients, South Africa will not end the burden of deadly infections like HIV and TB.

Behind our country's remarkable progress in the struggle to end AIDS are the thousands of nurses who provide counselling, care and antiretroviral therapy.

Behind the dramatic reduction in mother-to-child HIV transmission are the stories of women and men in white uniform who rigorously implement the necessary prevention measures.

Our people are living longer, more productive lives thanks to the cadre of inspired and devoted nurses who have enabled the expansion of our HIV treatment programme.

The nursing profession has been at the forefront of the major turnaround in the fight against HIV and AIDS, particularly since 2010 when nurses were trained on Nurse-Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Therapy.

As we speak, our nurses are implementing the World Health Organisation's new universal test and treat guidelines.

Because of your devotion, we are confident that by 2020, we will reach no less than 90% of all people infected with HIV and TB, and initiate them on treatment.

Our vision of an AIDS-free world by 2030 depends greatly on you, our nurses.

If we are to reduce the alarmingly high levels of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 24, our health facilities must be sites of empowerment.

They must be places where young people feel comfortable to go.

We must provide those who are engaging in sexual activity with condoms to protect themselves and to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

We must encourage men to circumcise, to condomise.

We must provide them with information and advice.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In its twenty years of existence, DENOSA has had many successes that are worth celebrating.

It is trusted by its members to represent their aspirations in the work place.

It is also trusted to advance their interests within society.

And true to its mission, it remains invested in improving their working conditions, securing their well-being and advocating for their safety.

In 2005, DENOSA succeeded in achieving the introduction of uniform allowances for nurses at the bargaining council.

Since 2006, it campaigned for the establishment of a Chief Nursing Officer position within the Department of Health, and, in 2014, the Chief Nursing Officer was appointed.

It has established the DENOSA Professional Institute to cater for the professional needs of nurses in the workplace.

In 2007, DENOSA concluded an agreement on Occupation-Specific Dispensation for nurses at the bargaining chamber for the proper adjustment of nurses' salaries.

Thanks to its efforts, an agreement was reached for professional nurses working in rural areas.

It is this organisation that spearheaded the formation of the Southern African Network of Nurses and Midwives, a regional body for nurses in the SADC region.

As a country, we appreciate the commitment and support that DENOSA is giving to preparations for the National Health Insurance.

We look to an ally like DENOSA to work with our communities in explaining the benefits of the NHI to our citizens.

We also need to engage more effectively to clarify the critical role of nurses in the implementation of the plan.

Despite our remarkable progress, we must also openly confront challenges that hinder the improvement of the working and living conditions our nurses.

We must find lasting solutions to safety risks, severe shortages of staff, long hours of work and low morale, which impact not only on our nurses, but also on the quality of care that patients ultimately receive.

We urge all stakeholders to work together to address outstanding issues on the occupation-specific dispensation, the Chief Nursing Officer and other matters of concern to nurses.

As the national government, we are committed to meeting our obligations and fulfilling our responsibilities.

We are committed to work together with DENOSA and other partners to improve the position of the nursing profession.

We agree that we should work together to establish ongoing professional development opportunities for all nurses in the workplace.

We must work together on a plan for career-pathing for lower category nurses.

Working together, we must urgently find a workable solution to the challenge of the absorption of community service nurses and post-community service nurses in provinces.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Despite the challenges we face, we must never lose sight of the road we have travelled together and the progress we have achieved.

Even under trying conditions, the people you serve still expect you to maintain the integrity of the profession.

They hope to experience while in your care the people-centred ethos of our public service.

You are in a position to demonstrate to them how we have transformed health care in this country and how we have transformed nursing.

The babies that you deliver at birth have no idea of your struggles.

They are deserving only of the warmth, care and love that we give to our own children.

Your calling - despite its challenges - puts you in a privileged position to heal, to care and to bring joy to patients and their families.

Yours is a profession full of exceptional women and men who seek to use their gifts for the betterment of humanity.

You are there, every day and every night, in the trenches of care, working to ensure that every person has the opportunity to make their dreams a reality.

Our people need you and we appreciate you dearly.

Once again, congratulations on your twentieth anniversary.

We look forward to the many achievements that still lie ahead.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa.

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