Windhoek — The health ministry yesterday revealed it will soon start with the recruitment of nurses, but it warned that the number of vacant posts would not be sufficient to accommodate all nurses who graduated in April and those who will graduate in September.
The ministry also says that despite having many vacancies for nurses - both enrolled and registered - the budget allocation is not sufficient. Government needs at least N$55 million if it is to fill all 322 currently vacant nursing positions but which can't be filled due to a lack of funds.
It is estimated that 217 registered nurses will graduate in September but that number "by far exceeds the available vacant posts on the staff establishment of the ministry", the health deputy minister Juliet Kavetuna told parliament yesterday. Currently there are said to be 343 nurses without jobs, and who have been demonstrating and calling on government to look at their plight.
Kavetuna says the ministry has received 320 applications from nurses who graduated in April 2018, but has not received applications from nurses who graduated in 2017 or the years before.
The available vacancies for registered nurses are only at 211, a number that is not only smaller than the current number of graduates but also smaller than the 217 registered nurses that will graduate in September. In fact, yesterday Kavetuna said the ministry has thus far received 215 job applications from registered nurses.
Compounding the situation is that for the 211 available vacancies, the ministry only has money to pay for 125 positions of registered nurses. The remaining 86 positions can only be filled if the ministry receives an extra allocation of N$19.1 million.
Further, the ministry only has 387 vacancies for enrolled nurses, but the budget available can only employ 151 enrolled nurses. For the ministry to employ the other 236 enrolled nurses it would need to be allocated an additional spending of nearly N$36 million on its annual budget from the Treasury.
This means the ministry needs an additional N$55 million if it is to recruit 322 enrolled and registered unemployed nurses to fill the available positions.
"We have been working tirelessly to ensure that we create maximum positions within our space. If fact, 99 posts were created by abolishing nearly 213 managerial and administrative posts to accommodate professionals such as doctors, nurses and other health professionals," Kavetuna said of the limited vacancies in the public health sector versus the number of health graduates.
She said this process of compensatory reduction is still proceeding to enable the ministry to create more clinical positions.
"Needless to say, qualified Namibians will always be given preference when filling any vacancies," she said.
Furthermore, Kavetuna also briefed lawmakers that there are currently only 96 foreign nurses in the government's employ, who are part of the bilateral agreement with Kenya, which will lapse in 2020.
She said the ministry does not automatically renew the contracts of foreign nurses. Rather, she said, it considers the needs based on the recommendation of the respective health facilities.
"There are instances where the health facilities want to retain foreign nurses due to their expertise in critical areas such as intensive care, theatre, maternity," she explained. On this basis, Kavetuna said, foreign nurses have been gradually reduced and those left are only those that are part of the bilateral agreement with Kenya.