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Compassion in Action: Stories of Lesotho’s Dedicated Nurses

12 May 2024 by Limpho Sello

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Maphakiso Maqeba, the Nurse in Charge at Samaria Health Centre in Mafeteng District. Photo Credit: Supplied.
Mabokang Damane-Ntsie, Nurse in Charge at Molikaliko Health Centre in Mokhotlong. Photo Credit: Supplied.

“I have noticed that many young nurses tend to gravitate towards urban settings for convenience. However, Basotho in every corner of the country require our services,” shared ‘Mabokang Damane-Ntsie.

Sekhametsi Matamane, a graduate of the University of Free State’s Masters in Business program, highlighted numerous health system challenges facing Lesotho.

In her 2014 study titled ‘Factors Affecting Turnover of Nurses in Rural Clinics of Lesotho,’ Matamane emphasised severe human resource shortages across various healthcare services as one of the many challenges facing primary healthcare in Lesotho.

“Among other factors,” Matamane noted, “these challenges are exacerbated by an increasing turnover of nurses from rural to urban areas.”

Matamane underscored that many rural clinics lack adequate nursing staff and are devoid of doctors, physicians, pharmacists, and other essential to healthcare professionals.

One such nurse addressing these challenges is Damane-Ntsie, who serves in Lesotho’s hard-to-reach areas.

She is a Nurse in Charge at Molikaliko Health Centre, which stands as an oasis in this remote setting, requiring a journey of over an hour from the nearest main road.

Serving communities scattered throughout the region, some patients embark on gruelling journeys of more than eight hours to access essential primary healthcare services within Molikaliko Health Centre’s catchment area.

“I urge young nurses to reconsider, as these hard-to-reach geographical areas are in dire need of their skills,” Damane-Ntsie shared with Uncensored News on May 10, just two days ahead of International Nurses Day.

Celebrated annually on May 12, this day commemorates the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that this year’s international day aims to reshape perceptions of nursing, showcasing how strategic investment in nursing can yield significant economic and societal benefits.

In Lesotho, Damane-Ntsie has been celebrated as a paragon of unwavering dedication, devoted to providing healthcare in these underserved areas, as attested by some of her patients.

One such patient, ‘Matobatsi Sekoati, extolled Damane-Ntsie’s passion and empathy, highlighting her exceptional care for pregnant women, even those facing labor with their first child—a situation clinics typically do not handle.

“Despite the remote locations of Molikaliko Health Centre, where some patients endure hours of travel, ‘m’e Damane ensures no pregnant woman is turned away, often aiding with deliveries and facilitating referrals to Mokhotlong Hospital, when necessary,” Sekoati told Uncensored News in a separate interview.

Sekoati conveyed heartfelt gratitude, expressing that since her arrival at Molikaliko, they have experienced genuine care—a stark contrast to past encounters. She emphasised that Damane-Ntsie consistently participates in clinic sessions and diligently attends to concerns, earning acclaim as a role model nurse.

Conversely, Phethiso Thinyane, a village health worker from Maitisi, echoes Sekoati’s sentiments, underlining their robust working rapport with Damane-Ntsie.

Despite primarily engaging during clinic meetings, Thinyane expressed confidence that Damane-Ntsie extends the same level of care to her staff as she does to patients.

“Significantly, ‘m’e Damane ensures that patients receive essential medications by coordinating with me and other village health workers,” Thinyane said.

Meet Nurse Maphakiso Maqeba

Nestled in the northern region of Lesotho, 186 kilometers away from Mokhotlong, lies Mafeteng district. Samaria Health Centre is one of the many health centres in Mafeteng.

Maphakiso Maqeba, the Nurse in Charge at Samaria Health Centre, exemplifies exceptional nursing care, prioritising the well-being of her patients both during and after their recovery.

On March 15, Mampe Motlohi, who has triumphed over tuberculosis (TB), conveyed profound gratitude towards Maqeba. She credited both her own recovery and that of her three children to Maqeba’s extraordinary care.

“Beyond ensuring our recovery from TB, Maqeba and her colleagues provided us with essential supplies, including food, clothes, and financial support,” Motlohi recounted.

Motlohi emphasised the invaluable support she received, highlighting Maqeba’s regular check-ins and ongoing assistance even after her recovery.

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Reflecting on her nursing career since 2005, Maqeba acknowledged the myriad challenges nurses encounter, underscoring the necessity for strength and resilience in the profession.

“Serving patients from underprivileged backgrounds at the primary level is particularly disheartening, especially when we’re unable to provide the necessary support,” Maqeba lamented.

Maqeba highlighted the ongoing challenge of medication stockouts at her clinic, which often compel patients to purchase prescribed medication from pharmacies, a financial burden many cannot bear.

She recounted a poignant incident where a patient, unable to afford the prescribed medication due to stockouts, suffered a stroke later that same day.

Maqeba highlighted the pressing challenge of medication stockouts at her clinic, which forces patients to purchase prescribed medication from pharmacies—a financial strain that many cannot bear. She recounted a heart-wrenching incident where a patient, unable to afford prescribed medication due to these stockouts, suffered a stroke on the same day.

“This heart-breaking event underscores the critical need for accessible healthcare and adequate medication supply for all patients, regardless of their financial circumstances,” she asserted.

The World Health Organization emphasises that despite being the backbone of healthcare provision, nurses often encounter financial constraints, and their role is frequently undervalued.

Acknowledging the weighty burden of such issues, Maqeba stressed the importance of resilience in facing each new day, especially for the sake of other patients. While she endeavours to assist where possible, she acknowledged the limitations of her aid at times.

She urged nurses grappling with challenges or contemplating leaving the profession to either muster the courage and resources to persevere or to explore alternative paths.

Highlighting the pivotal roles nurses play in healthcare settings, Maqeba emphasised the significance of fostering a welcoming and supportive environment for patients. She emphasised that patients’ comfort and confidence around healthcare providers are vital for cultivating a healthier community.

“On this International Nurses Day, I appeal to my colleagues to uphold the true essence of nursing through selfless service and compassionate care,” she concluded.

Damane’s resolute path

With 12 years of experience, initially at Scott Hospital and currently at Molikaliko Health Centre, ‘Mabokang Damane-Ntsie acknowledged the financial constraints that prompt pregnant women to seek care at the clinic rather than the hospital, emphasising her commitment to assisting them regardless of their circumstances.

Reflecting on her passion for nursing, Damane-Ntsie attributes it to her upbringing and innate desire to care for others. She embraces the opportunity to serve underserved communities, recognising the profound impact of accessible healthcare.

However, she is also mindful of the challenges of rural healthcare, which demand adaptability and innovation to address evolving needs.

“Personally, I thrive on challenges and critical thinking, not routine work.”

Reflecting on her career journey, Damane-Ntsie shared her experience of working at Scott Hospital in 2012 after completing her Diploma in General Nursing and Midwifery. She pursued further studies in South Africa before returning to a government post as a Nursing Officer in 2021, where she was stationed in Mokhotlong. Despite the initial challenges of transition, she found peace and fulfilment in serving the community.

With extensive experience and education, including Post Graduate Diplomas in Health Care Management from the University of Free State and HIV/AIDS Management from Stellenbosch University, Damane-Ntsie has been widely recognized for her outstanding contributions.

She was nominated for the Finite Magazine Women Appreciation Awards in 2022 and emerged as a top 10 finalist for the African CDC-DRASA Continental Award for frontline health workers in 2023.

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