Crisis Looms as Nurses Threaten to Stop Working in Dispensaries

  • Say practice violates their ethics and the law
  • Warn 1st July will be their last day in dispensary units




In a move that is likely to paralyse the public health sector, nurses and midwives will stop working in dispensaries from 1st July because issuing prescribed drugs and other medication to patients violates their code of ethics and the law.


The Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has notified the government of this and that dispending prescribed drugs and medication is the remit of pharmacists.


The union holds that having nurses and midwives do this specialised work also poses a threat to the safety of patients and that there should be a clear distinction in the roles of nurses and pharmacists in Botswana’s public health system.


Manifestly unlawful


In a letter to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) copied to the Ministry of Health, BONU president, Peter Baleseng, states: “Please take notice that BONU has taken the decision for nurses and midwives to formally cease the duties relating to dispensing of medicines as of 1st July 2023.


“The decision has been taken on the basis that the current practice is manifestly unlawful and in breach of the code of ethics for practising nurses and midwives.


“BONU wishes to bring to your attention that the above conduct is in breach of the Related Substances Act of 2013 at Section 26 (1)a-c.


Risk of imprisonment


“In essence, a person who operates a dispensary without authority commits an offence and is at grave risk of imprisonment or a fine.”


The letter warns that the Nurses and Midwives Act of 1995 also prohibits any registered professional from engaging in any practice that is not provided for or differs from the terms and conditions of their practising certificates.


The Ministry of Health has received a copy of the letter and the concerns raised by BONU and is yet to state its response.


Mixed reactions


The decision of BONU has generated mixed reactions within the healthcare community where some professionals and patients are in support of the union’s stance, citing concerns about errors and the need for specialised personnel.


Others, however, argue that in rural areas where pharmacists may not be available, nurses should continue dispensing prescribed drugs and medication under strict guidelines and protocols.