South African nurses working in foreign countries such as Canada and the US
require confirmation of their qualifications from the SA Nursing Council,
although they may continue to practise in Saudi Arabia where there is no nursing
Charity Bhengu, the spokesperson for the health department, confirmed
yesterday that the bill had been passed by both houses of parliament and was
waiting for President Thabo Mbeki's signature of approval.
The revised Nursing Bill will be available to the public once it has been
signed by Mbeki. A clause in the bill states that the SA Nursing Council may
instruct the registrar to deregister a nurse who has been absent from the
country for a continuous period of more than three years.
Kurt Worral-Clare, the acting chief executive of the Hospital Association of
SA, said any excitement around that particular clause would be a "storm in
a teacup" since it did not preclude nurses who visited South Africa within
the three-year period from continuing to practise abroad.
He said cases would probably be dealt with on individual merits. A nurse, who
did not want to be named and works in the private sector in the Northern Cape,
told Business Report that the main incentive for working abroad was the
difference in salary.
"I worked in Saudi Arabia for two years and would not have come back
were it not for personal reasons," she said. Nurses in Saudi Arabia earn a
tax-free salary of R20 000 a month and can "live quite comfortably" on
R4 000 a month since accommodation is free.
Eileen Brannigan, Netcare's nursing director, said it was currently unclear
how many of the 190 000 nurses registered with the SA Nursing Council were
But Penny Streeter, the managing director of recruitment agency Ambition
24Hours, said her office had been inundated with requests from South African
nurses working in the UK wanting to know more about employment opportunities in
Worral-Clare said the new bill presented a concise effort to regulate the
nursing profession and placed emphasis on gathering information to obtain a
clearer picture of the South Africa nursing industry.
Adam Pyle, Life Healthcare's marketing director, raised the issue of nurses
trained in the private sector serving a mandatory year of community service in
the public sector as a possible bone of contention.
But Brannigan said the community service would not be enforced this year and
a committee had been formed to find a solution amenable to both sectors.
"Another issue that needs to be addressed is that with the current
wording in the bill, foreign nurses coming into South Africa will also have to
work a year of community service," she said.