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Nurses plead with ’Maesaia over pay



MASERU – FIRST Lady ’Maesaia Thabane has promised nurses working for Tšepong (Pty) Ltd that she will take up their grievances with the government, a move that could help end protests that have affected patients.
Tšepong (Pty) Ltd is a company that was contracted to run several health institutions under a Private-Public-Partnership (PPP) arrangement with the government of Lesotho.

The conglomerate runs Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital, Mabote Filter Clinic, Qoaling Filter Clinic and Likotsi Filter Clinic.
Protests that included a go slow have badly affected patients, with some people failing to get services.
The First Lady says she will now personally act in hopes of ensuring nurses’ grievances are addressed and services return to normal.

Addressing hundreds of nurses during a protest march last Friday, ’Maesaia said she will “soon talk with the people responsible to fix this”.
“Once I have talked to them I will bring you feedback. I will bring you their response as it is so that you understand exactly how they feel about your grievances,” ’Maesaia said.

“You have complained for too long. I wonder if these people hear when you cry,” she said.
At the heart of the disputes between the Tšepong staff, the government and Tšepong management is the issue of salaries.
According to the PPP agreement, nurses who work in the intensive care unit and operating theatre should earn M8 183 per month while assistant nurses should be paid M4 124 monthly.

Chefs should get M5 231, ward clerks M2 500 and a receptionist M2 674 monthly.
However, the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA), which represents the employees in negotiations, says the figures “differed very much with what applied on the ground during operations”.

An Intensive Care Unit registered nurse earns M6 588 while an assistant is paid M3 327.
A theatre registered nurse is paid M7 288 while an assistant earns M3 872 per month.
A chef is paid M2 449, a ward clerk M2 294 and a receptionist gets M2 300 monthly.

LEWA said it was angered by the response it received after it approached the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) over the discrepancies. “The learned Arbitrator dismissed that case on the grounds that the workers are not party to the agreement (and) as a result they don’t have a right to enforce the said agreement,” said LEWA.

For four years, nurses at the hospital have complained about what they describe as unfair labour practices by hospital management and government.
The nurses complain that government departments of health and finance have “always turned a blind eye” to their plight.
Several letters to the office of the Prime Minister have failed to move hospital management and the government, the workers say.
Last Friday they petitioned the First Lady “with the hope that she can spur the powers that be to act on this”.
The petition to ’Maesaia came barely two months after the nurses at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital declared that they were on a go-slow because management was discriminating against them.

They complained that management increased the salaries of pharmacists without extending the same gesture to nurses.
Nurses were “bluntly” told that they could be replaced easily because there are many qualified jobless nurses, said workers’ representatives.
Reading a petition before ’Maesaia, a representative of the nurses, Moliehi Taolana, said grievances centred on the salary structure.
She said the union has been pursuing the employer to review their salaries since April 2013 to no avail.
Taolana said nurses wanted their salaries “to be at par with our counterparts in the public sector and CHAL (Christian Health Association of Lesotho) institutions”.

“This absurdity continues, notwithstanding that Tšepong is the National Referral Hospital,” Taolana said.
“The government, through the Ministries of Health and Finance, which are stakeholders in these issues, resolved CHAL salary issues with much ease over the past five years when the employees decided to down tools,” she said.

What irked the nurses, Taolana told ’Maesaia, is that they “managed to have access to Tšepong payroll and discovered that 80 percent of the employees’ salaries have been allocated to the management, which we found unfair and unreasonable”.
Taolana said Tšepong refused to review the salaries of its employees, arguing that the government did not give them enough money under the Private-Public-Partnership agreement.

“But surprisingly in September 2017 the management decided intentionally and deliberately to discriminate against its employees by increasing salaries of others while some received nothing,” Taolana said.
“We do not know how much the government gives Tšepong and so it is difficult to effectively negotiate better salaries and conditions of employment,” she said. Attempts to get comment from the hospital failed.

‘Makhotso Rakotsoane

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[BREAKING NEWS] Lebona sets curfew



MASERU– In an effort to curb the rampant increase of homicides in Lesotho, the Minister of Police Lebona Lephema has announced a 10:00pm-4:00am curfew, effective Tuesday May 16, 2023. Failure to comply with the curfew attracts a 2 years imprisonment or a fine.

Staff Reporter

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Two nurses deleted for misconduct



MASERU – A Kolonyama midwife, ’Mamalibeng Ralenkoane, who allegedly neglected a woman during labour has been deleted from the nurses’ register for the next six months.

The woman went on to deliver her baby by herself without professional assistance.

In another case the secretary-general of the Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC), ’Mamonica Makhoswonke Mokhesi, has also been deleted for violating a patient’s privacy.

The LNC’s disciplinary chairman, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, said Ralenkoane had committed an act of serious misconduct and deserved severe punishment.

Advocate Sepiriti ruled that Ralenkoane “should not be seen anywhere attending (to) patients”.

Ralenkoane was working as a midwife at the Little Flower Health Centre in Kolonyama, Leribe, when ’Mateboho Letlala was admitted there for labour in August 2020.

Letlala told the panel that Ralenkoane took her to the examination room and later left her despite that there were signs that she could give birth anytime.

“At 19:00 pm Ralenkoane examined the patient but left her unattended and the patient had to deliver on her own,” Advocate Sepiriti said in his verdict.

“Clearly the blame has to be put at the door of Ralenkoane,” he said.

Adv. Sepiriti ruled that she should be deleted with immediate effect for 12 months, half of which was suspended.

“During these six months period, Ralenkoane is prohibited in any way from attending patients and this judgment should be delivered at her place of work,” he said.

Letlala in her testimony said by the time Ralenkoane arrived, she was already having severe labour pains and was told to go to the labour ward for assessment.

She said when she stepped down the labour bed Ralenkoane said to her: “Ua seke ua tatela ho hema empa molomo oa popelo o buleile ka 3cm’ (meaning she seemed to be in a hurry yet the cervix had opened by 3cm only).

“I was so surprised because I could feel I was very close to delivering because this was my second child and I could say I have experience,” she said.

She said she told the nurse that she needed to use the toilet but was instructed to use a pan instead.

“As she left me on the bed pan I could not stand from the pan as the pains were severe. I called for help but to no avail,” she said.

She said the moment she got energy to stand from the bed pan she saw blood, she called her but there was no response.

“Ralenkoane promised to come after two hours but there were no instructions on what to do in case I needed help prior to two hours,” she said.

“I wheeled myself to the bed and sat on it, still calling to no avail.”

She said while still alone, her membranes raptured and the time of birth came and the baby was delivered.

“The child did not fall as I was able to hold him,” she said.

She phoned her aunt who told her to find s scissor to cut the umbilical cord.

She said she bled a lot and ran out of energy, then Ralenkoane arrived at around midnight.

“When she came in she asked where the baby was and I pointed to where I had put him where he clamped the cord,” she said.

She said it was then that she got assistance.

The investigator for Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), one Nteso, told Advocate Sepiriti that his findings were that “the mother’s life was in danger as she was found having bled heavily and tired and the baby’s life was also in danger from prolonged exposure which could lead to hypothermia and brain damage”.

“Ralenkoane was not there for the mother until she delivered in the absence of the midwife, this is a case of negligence,” he said.

However, in mitigation Ralenkoane said this was her first time to appear before the panel and has been a nurse for more than nine years.

She said she has two children to support and she has already been punished by the clinic as she was dismissed and that she has policies and loans.

She pleaded with the panel to have mercy on her.

In another case Mokhesi who was the Secretary General of LNC was also deleted from the register for two years after she was found guilty of sharing a patient’s picture on social media without their consent.

She was accused of defamation of character and violating the patient’s privacy by posting pictures of the injuries he had incurred.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Nurses back at work



MASERU -NURSES who have been on strike since Monday are set to resume work this morning after the government started paying their salaries.

The nurses went on a go-slow last week but escalated to a full-fledged strike on Monday after the government delayed their salaries. Some nurses claimed they had not been paid since March.

Morephe Santi, the secretary general of the Lesotho Nurses’ Association (LNA), said they have started telling members to go back to work after the government said the salaries will start reflecting in their accounts last night.

The strike has inflicted huge reputational damage on Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s government which came to power on promises of efficiency.

Minister of Public Service Richard Ramoeletsi blamed the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and the Human Resource Management System (HRMS) for the delay in April salaries.

Ramoeletsi told parliament last week that the two financial management systems were unable to reconcile, leading to delays in salaries.

But that explanation was little consolation for patients who bore the brunt of the strike.

At least 20 expectant mothers at Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek were told to go home because nurses could not help them.

Some of the women were later admitted at Tebellong Hospital, a facility under the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL).

“We were staying at the hospital’s roundavel awaiting our time to go to labour but on Thursday afternoon (last week we were called by the nurses and they told us to go to other hospitals or go back home,” said Maretlotliloe Mpeli, who is heavily pregnant.

She said the nurses told them that they could not work on empty stomachs.

’Matlotla Poling, 19, from Ha-Rankakala said she had to call her parents because she did not have any money to either go back home or to Tebellong Hospital.

The Machabeng Hospital management declined to comment, referring thepost to the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mosebekoa, said Machabeng Hospital “did not expel the expecting mothers but merely sent them back home”.

“Due to the ongoing strike by doctors countrywide …they decided to take those women to the places where they would get help,” Mosebekoa said.

There was similar anguish at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

“The strike has affected all the departments including the kitchen, maternity, and emergencies, but the managers are on duty,” said ’Makananelo Sepipi, the hospital’s spokesperson.

Sepipi said managers were forced to hold the forte “because some sections cannot be left unattended utterly due to their importance”.

“The operations are happening in the emergency section, even though they do not operate in a normal way.”

She said patients whose operations were scheduled for this week were sent back home.

Santi, the LNA’s secretary general, blamed the government for the chaos caused by the strike.

Santi said as much as the government likes to call them an essential service they do not prioritise their ministry.

“They do not appreciate us, it is like they do not see the importance of our job,” Santi said.

“The government turns a blind eye to the fact that our working environment alone can put us at risk of contracting diseases.”

“Now we are not able to buy food and other necessities.”

Nkheli Liphoto & Thooe Ramolibeli

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