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London no job haven, say fed-up nurses
January 13, 2007 Edition 1

Thembisile Makgalemele

SA Health professionals who left in search of greener pastures have found life overseas a disappointment - and many are trying to come home.

Lured by huge salaries, they left frustrated Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang with endless vacant posts to fill. Up to 40% of clinic and hospital staff posts are reportedly vacant.

SA nurses, who earn R8 000 to R18 000 a month here, have been enticed by London salaries of around £2 500 (R35 000).

But now health professionals' organisations report a flood of requests from disillusioned nurses and doctors wanting to return home.

But many cannot afford the plane ticket.

"Many are desperate to come home but they have been sending money home and do not have cash. They live in terrible conditions. Sometimes 10 nurses share five single beds in tiny rooms. Five work a day shift and the others at night," said Eileen Brannigan, Netcare group nursing director.

Brannigan said SA doctors and nurses overseas also feared rejection because colleagues criticised them for leaving.

The Netcare Group, which is 20% short of nurses in its wards and 40% in its intensive care units, has joined hands with the Homecoming Revolution for the Woza Ekhaya campaign, to help the professionals return home.

The Netcare Group will offer nurses a refresher course and a sign-on bonus.

"We had to give others their bonuses in advance so they could buy their air tickets."

One nurse, Mpho Manana, said, "I cannot say I have gained any experience in London. South Africa has very high nursing standards but we were all, including a person with the experience of a matron, treated like newly qualified nurses because we did not train in Britain."

Many doctors worked in the UK simply to get citizenship there, one said.

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