21 May 2019

Namibia: Jobless Nurses Give Ministry Ultimatum

ABOUT 150 registered nurses recently graduated from various educational institutions have given the ministry of health until 10 June to employ them, or face unspecified action.

The nurses are graduates from the University of Namibia, the International University of Management and Welwitschia University.

The group's spokesperson, Jason Diogenus, said in a press statement yesterday that they had written to the ministry seeking employment through mass applications.

The letter addressed to the ministry's executive director, Ben Nangombe, was written on 25 April 2019.

The ministry responded on 15 May 2019 to the group, stating that there are only 80 vacant posts for registered nurses.

Diogenus added that the ministry informed the nurses that to date, they had received 370 applications for employment from registered nurses at various regions and hospitals.

The group's spokesperson said the 80 posts are "not only an insult to nurses but is also a disservice to the public, who are spending hours in hospital queues to seek medical care services".

"When the government says only 80 registered nurses out of 370 applications are to be recruited, they mean it is okay for the public to wait two hours in hospitals," he said.

Diogenus said all graduate nurses who have applied and have met the ministry's requirements must be employed.

"We are fully aware that the government might start entertaining us with the famous song of there is 'no money' or 'no budget'. In this case, we would like to remind the government that health is a national issue, and it must be the government's priority," he continued.

"After four years of higher education, the same government that has been singing for decades that we should go to school is now telling us that we have to wait until someone dies, retires or resigns if we are to be employed," he said.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula yesterday said he was not aware of the statement by the nurses since he is not in the country but attending a conference in Geneva along with the executive director.

The unemployed nurses are not the only group putting pressure on the ministry over employment.

A group of health extension workers has opened a complaint with the Labour Commissioner's office against the ministry, demanding that the ministry hires them.

These 640 workers completed a six-months community-based healthcare training programme in 2017, and claim the ministry has left them stranded, with some refusing to return to their regions until the matter is resolved.

A lack of assistance from the ministry has caused the group to hold protests, and camp at the head office.

The group, led by Willem Kayongo, told The Namibian in February that they will continue fighting for employment until the ministry meets their demands.

"There is no way they can run away from this matter because they gave us legitimate expectations that after completing the programme, we would be immediately employed," he said.

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