The non-existence of a nursing council in Namibia is making it impossible for more than 32 jobless foreign nurses to apply for jobs overseas because they cannot get certificates of good standing from the government.
The 32 foreign nurses of different nationalities have applied for certificates of good standing after 31 March when their contracts with the ministry of health were not renewed.
The ministry last year announced that it would not need the services of foreign nurses any longer or renew their contracts, particularly those who have reached the retirement age of 60, in order to provide opportunities for Namibian graduate nurses.
Since then, many foreign nurses have been scrambling to apply for jobs overseas, but are unable to leave the country because the Health Professions Council of Namibia (HPCNA) is delaying issuing them with good standing certificates required to apply for jobs elsewhere.
"I'm begging the Namibian government to issue us with our certificates so that we can leave this country and get jobs esewhere. As it is now, we are stuck here in Namibia without work," said a foreign nurse, who declined to be named.
A good standing certificate is required by a prospective employer when applying for employment elsewhere. Registrar and chief executive officer at the HPCNA, Cornelius Weyulu on Friday said what is normally issued by the Nursing Council of Namibia to nurses, on application and as per the stipulations of the Nursing Act of 2004, is the certificate of good standing in which the professional credentials of an applicant are indicated.
He explained that the term of office of the previous members of the nursing council came to an end on 31 March 2018, and no new nursing council has been constituted to date. The nursing council under the HPCNA is mandated to issue certificates of good standing to nurses in the country.
"We are, however, aware that the Minister of Health and Social Services is seized with the matter, and hopefully a new nursing council will be constituted soon," he said.
He said this would mean all nurses, whether foreign or Namibian, who applied for the certificate of good standing from the Nursing Council of Namibia after 31 March 2018, were not given such certificates simply because there is no nursing council in place to issue them as required by the Nursing Act.
He further explained that the reason for not issuing certificates of good standing to the applicants concerned has nothing to do with the fact that they are foreigners. "Even Namibians are not issued with such certificates for now," he said.
Meanwhile, foreign nurses whose contracts have not been renewed say they face a bleak future because they cannot apply for jobs anywhere.
"The only thing standing between me and leaving this country is the certificate of good standing," said a Zambian nurse, who is based at a hospital at Oshakati, and who also declined to be named.
She said she came to Namibia in 2012 with her family when the country was in desperate need of nurses, and has been working at that hospital since then.
Her contract with government ended recently, and has also not been renewed.
"I applied for a nursing job at a company in the United Kingdom, but they cannot employ me without the verification letter (certificate)," said the nurse, who burst into tears as she spoke of how she is desperate to leave Namibia and start afresh in another country.
"I respect the fact that the Namibian government wants to employ its own people. All I am asking for is that they give me my papers to enable me to get employment in another country," she stressed.
Another nurse, who is also based in the north, said she applied for her certificate to go and work overseas two months ago, and has been making follow-ups with the responsible person at the HPCNA.
"Each time, she would say my papers are not done yet. I then called again, only to be told that the HPCNA is not processing verification letters at the moment," she continued.
"I think this is very cruel and heartless, considering the fact that I am not employed anymore. I have children and parents that l have to take care of. Please, let us consider the fact that our contracts were not renewed. This is inhuman because I have to earn a living, and the HPCNA and the ministry are sitting on my papers," charged the nurse.
The ministry of health's acting permanent secretary, Petronella Masabane, declined to comment, and referred all questions to the HPCNA.