Windhoek – The Namibian Government has dismissed accusations that it is favouring foreign nurses, mostly Kenyans and Zimbabweans, at their expense.
Unemployed nurses have been demanding that government terminate contracts of all non-Namibian nurses, doctors and other medical professionals and hire local graduates that have been roaming the streets since 2017.
Most of the enrolled nurses that graduated in April from the University of Namibia’s School of Nursing and Public Health and the International University of Management remain jobless. Enrolled nurses trained at the National Health Training Centre run by the Ministry of Health and Social Services are also crying foul.
Due to the financial crisis, the government has imposed a blanket freeze on the public sector recruitment to save costs, despite an acute shortage of staff at state health facilities across the country.
Last week, a group of about 100 unemployed nursing graduates met Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to present their grievances and to plead for her intervention.
The group’s spokesperson, Junias Shilunga, a UNAM graduate, has confirmed that there are at least 210 unemployed registered nurses who graduated from local institutions but have been waiting to be employed since last year.
However, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has rubbished the perception that the government is favouring foreign nurses. She told Parliament on Tuesday that the government has not renewed any contact with foreign nurses since September 2017. She said a circular has been issued to all national and regional directors and medical superintendents and officials in charge of state hospitals and other health centres to suspend the appointment or extension of contracts of non-Namibians as well as Namibians who have reached the age of 60.
“It is a fact that currently the government does not have the sufficient number of vacant posts to accommodate all graduates due to the current financial crisis. However, certain adjustments and control measures have to be put in place in order to accommodate all graduates,” she said.
According to the Prime Minister, many foreign nurses have left the country, except for 96 Kenyan nurses, who are on a bilateral agreement signed between Namibia and Kenya, whose contracts lapse by 2020.
“The ministry does not automatically renew the contracts of foreigners. Rather, it considers instances where the health facilities want to retain certain foreign nurses due to their expertise in critical areas such as intensive care, theatre, and maternity care,” she explained.
Currently, there are about 12,900 nurses serving in the public health sector. The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Juliet Kavetuna, has confirmed that the ministry has started the recruitment process of 320 nurses, who graduated in April 2018, while all 2017 graduates have been absorbed.
The ministry has 387 vacant posts for enrolled nurses. However, the government can only fund 151 posts at a cost of R22.9 million and would require an additional R35.8 million to fill 236 posts.
Kavetuna also revealed that 215 registered nurses have applied for employment in the public health sector but there are only 211 vacancies available, out of which 125 nurses would take R27.7 million. The ministry would need an additional R19 million to fill the remaining 86 posts.
Furthermore, she said the number of graduates is expected to increase, as an estimated 217 registered nurses are expected to graduate in September 2018.
“We are working tirelessly to ensure that we create maximum positions within our space. In fact, 99 posts were created by abolishing nearly 213 managerial and administrative posts in order to accommodate professionals such as doctors, nurses and other health professionals,” she said.
The ministry received R6.2 billion in the 2017/18 financial year. Kavetuna, therefore, urged the private health sector to come on board and absorb some of the graduates, as the government cannot be the sole employer of all graduates.
Source : The Southern Times