A nurse fills a syringe with malaria vaccine before administering it to an infant at the Lumumba hospital in Kisumu

Nomagugu Simelane, KwaZulu-Natal's member of the executive council (MEC) for health, urged Monday that young South African men to consider nursing as a career as some men are too shy to speak openly with female health practitioners about certain ailments.

Simelane said that during the discussion with men in community outreach programs, such as Isibaya Samadoda and Ikhosomba Lamajita, she learned that "some men are too shy" to speak openly to female health practitioners about certain ailments that they might have," SA News reported.

"Especially those [men] that may pertain to their sexual reproductive health - but also other diseases as well. As a result of this, men are simply dying from diseases that are otherwise preventable, treatable or manageable, purely because they do not come to our facilities," she said.

The KwaZulu-Natal health MEC noted that this is the time when men should stop dying due to diseases such as prostate cancer, male breast cancer, HIV and AIDS, diabetes, hypertension among many others.

Simelane's comments came during the graduation ceremony at the KwaZulu-Natal College of Nursing where 197 nurses, including 56 male nurses were newly graduated.

Simelane said that the health department will promote more programs to make the process "men-friendly," adding that when the Budget Speech for the 2023-24 financial year was delivered, the department was focused on men's health in the province.

"This was actually the re-affirmation of a commitment that we made when we assumed office in 2019," she said. "We have made a commitment that every local municipality must have at least one facility – whether a CHC (community health center) or a 24-hour clinic – that is dedicated to the health of men."

The MEC noted that these facilities will have a male nurse throughout the day and even after hours to make it easier for men to visit the healthcare facilities. Currently, the overall men in the health department represent 12% across all nursing categories, with nursing managers comprising 20%.

However, when it comes to the student nurse cohort, men account for 42%, which she said is a "welcome improvement towards the goal that we are pursuing."

"We also note with a great deal of encouragement that 56 men are graduating as male nurses today, which will add to the existing 4,088 cohort of male nurses. We encourage more men to consider pursuing a career in the nursing profession," Simelane said.

Meanwhile, she also urged all the nurses in KwaZulu-Natal to prioritize their own health and encouraged them to undertake regular screening and preventive care of themselves to help detect potential health problems early.