- JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South
African health workers have been so badly affected by the HIV epidemic
that some 35,000, or 20 percent, of the country's nurses are carrying the
virus, press reports said Tuesday.
- According to figures quoted at a health workers' conference
in Midrand outside Johannesburg, student nurses have also succumbed to
the disease in huge numbers, the Star newspaper reported.
- The head of the Hospital Association of South Africa,
Dr Annette van der Merwe, on Monday told delegates that more than half
of the first-year nursing students at one of the four state nursing colleges
in Gauteng province were HIV-positive.
- Van der Merwe said HIV/AIDS was hitting the profession
at a time when staffing levels were at an all-time low.
- The number of hospital beds had plummeted from 6.5 for
every 1,000 people in the country in 1976 to 2.3 for every 1,000 citizens
in 1996, she said.
- Staffing levels in public hospitals were even more dire
and there were only enough nurses to staff 1.8 beds for every 1,000 people,
- A manager at the Netcare hospital group, Eileen Brannigan,
told delegates the situation could worsen as a result of the high incidence
of HIV among health workers.
- "In our organisation we are losing registered nurses.
We are sitting with nurses who are dying now and the students are even
worse off," she said.
- Brannigan said some 70 percent of the students at a nursing
college in Gauteng, which encompasses Johannesburg, were attending a clinic
- At another college, 21 percent of the students have volunteered
that they are HIV-positive, she said.
- Dr Liz Floyd, director of HIV and communicable diseases
for the Gauteng health department, questioned the figures, saying some
of them "sounded a little unreal."
- She said health care professionals and the public were
panicking and overestimating HIV statistics, as the impact of the disease
started to be felt in South Africa.
- According to the health ministry, some 300 nurses left
South Africa to work overseas last year, while the figure has risen to
200 a month in 2000.
- Brannigan said the country needed 29,282 nurses to counter
this exodus and boost staffing levels, but a drastic drop in the number
of students enrolling to study nursing and the impact of AIDS promised
- The conference heard that one of the main reasons given
by nurses for quitting the profession was the fear of being infected with
HIV in the course of duty.
- Some 4.2 million South Africans -- more than one in 10
-- were HIV-positive at the end of last year, according to the health ministry.
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