KZN health veteran of 45 years retires; shares pearls of wisdom:

  • "We wear white robes because the work we do it Godly.
  • Lets respect patients.
  • Most people like to follow the bright city lights, but I thought I'd draw a lot more work satisfaction from serving my rural community"

03 October 2023

With a number of respected nursing qualifications and experience under her belt, Makhosazana Themba had every opportunity to up and move away from Umhlabuyalingana to the bright city lights. But for the better part of 45 "challenging but rewarding" years, her love for rural communities saw her stay put, championing better access to healthcare, and providing administrative leadership and direction for them.

This past Friday (30 September 2023) marked Ms Themba's last day at work as she begins her retirement, closing the curtain on a long and fulfilling career that began when she started nurse training at Ceza Hospital, on 1 March 1978.

It was an emotion-filled day, as KZN Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane got a chance to pay tribute and bid her farewell, on the sidelines of the Senior Citizens Parliament, in Mtubatuba.

"Sis' Makho" - as she is affectionately known - was born eMkhumbane (latter-day Cato Manor), and grew up at KwaMashu, "but I never forgot that my family came from KwaMhlabuyalingana."

Having qualified as a professional nurse in June 1982, she worked her way up the ranks, becoming a nurse educator in 1985. She subsequently worked, in various capacities, at Ceza, Charles Johnson, Mbongolwane, Ngwelezane and Bhethesda hospitals.

She also had a stint as a private tutor at Potchefstroom University, helping nurses further their studies.

In 1999, she joined the Umkhanyakude district office in Jozini, as clinical and programmes manager, and would go on to be appointed district director 11 years later, in 2010, until her retirement.

Reflecting on her career, she said, "I'm grateful for the leadership I found [in the Department]. If it wasn't for it, I wouldn't have worked for this long.

"What has kept me at Umkhanyakude,  I realised that this is home. And that I couldn't just abandon my home. Many people like to leave behind the place where they come from and go and work in the cities, but I thought I'd draw a lot more work satisfaction from serving rural communities, especially the type of people I work with.

"The community that I've worked with is very grateful and accepting of the help we give them. Also the way we work,  and the relationship we have with all the community structures, from ubukhosi to local municipalities, NGOs, religious organisations, those are some of the things that kept me grounded here.

"I thought, 'If we are the ones who leave, after being educated by these communities, then who will help them?' I've always been really touched by the gratitude that we experience from the local communities."

Among the main highlights of her career, she singles out Government's enhanced access to Anti-Retroviral Treatment, to stem the tide of HIV and AIDS, which once decimated communities and seemed unstoppable.

"Seeing the team at Umkhanyakude change people's lives, especially when it came to the HIV rollout, as well as, strengthening the ethos of mother and child care. There's a lot that we were able to achieve."

She also had some pearls of wisdom to share with healthcare professionals.

"To those that I leave behind, especially nurses, let us always remember why we came to this Department, and who we are here to serve. The public relies on us. People love us. They believe in us. Ours is to give back to them. Let us remember that many of us are nurses today because of taxpayers' money.

"Most of our parents could not have been able to fund our studies. Let's get out of our offices and go where people are. We have committed ourselves as Government to take services to the people. Letís do that. Let's respect people. Let us respect the leadership.  Let's respect amakhosi, the municipalities, but also, let's respect ourselves.

"We wear white robes because the work we do is Godly.  We are doing the work that Jesus used to do in the world, and work that he would do if he was still here. So, let's take this opportunity with both hands, and remember that He is relying on us to do this work."

Now that she has hung up her epilates, "Sis' Makho" is looking forward to spending more time with those dear to her  - while continuing to serve the community, one way or the other.

"I'm planning to give attention to my family. I've neglected them for a very long time. I'm hoping to have more time for them. But also, because I'm a member of the local community, I'll see which community organisations I'm able to work with. I'm very keen to continue being of assistance to the community, wherever the chance avails itself."

On Friday, KZN Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane described the day as "bitter-sweet", and expressed her gratitude to Ms Themba for her many years of hard work and dedication.

"We are very grateful for her commitment to the Department, but also to the district. We're also grateful that, as a daughter of the soil, she didn't opt for other pastures far from home, once she had developed herself.

Addressing Ms Themba directly, MEC Simelane said: "No words can ever be sufficient to convey our gratitude for the long service you've given us. We really appreciate the work you've done, and the years you've given to the Department.

"It's a bitter-sweet day.  What I do know is that nurses who are izikhwishikhwishi (hard-working) as she's been, tend to find it difficult to disengage completely from the Department and sit at home. I know we'll continue to meet in the passages.

"It is vital for us as a Department, to ensure that we find a way to retain and utilise their experience.  We must not completely let go of them.  The younger nurses need the mentorship that they have to offer."

ENDS

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This page last edited on 05 October, 2023

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