Namibia: Health Workers Threaten to Resign Amid Forced Removal

(File photo).
14 September 2020

Health workers at the Robert Mugabe Clinic in Windhoek say they will resign if the health ministry forces them out of the accommodation facilities paid for by the ministry.

The health workers on Saturday closed the Robert Mugabe Clinic for hours, which is the main Covid-19 testing point in Windhoek, after the ministry announced that it would no longer accommodate staff members at the facilities.

The clinic was closed between 07h00 and 10h00 and re-opened after the ministry's executive director, Ben Nangombe, visited the facility to address staff.

Staff at the Covid-19 testing centre have been accommodated by the ministry since March because of the high risk of getting infected, and to avoid taking the virus home.

In a letter last week Thursday, Khomas regional health director Patemoshela Hamunyela said staff were to move back home.

"All healthcare workers accommodated in hotels, guest houses and lodges should vacate these places by 13 September 2020," Hamunyela said. She urged healthcare workers to use personal protective equipment correctly to minimise the risk of infection. A nurse at the clinic, who chose to remain anonymous, said staff members feel the move is a cost-saving strategy by the ministry.

"We are the first to tend to Covid-19 cases. For them to send us a two-day notice to vacate and go back home is not right. The risk of infection is too high," the nurse said. She added that if forced to move home, some of her colleagues may consider leaving their jobs at the clinic.

"It makes us think it's better to go [and] work at another clinic where the risk is still there but not as high," the nurse said.

She said that workers at the hospital will continue to work until the ministry reverts to them.

However, while responding to questions on the ministry's letter at State House last week Friday, Nangombe said only health workers in high-risk facilities are being requested to vacate their accommodation.

"Initially, we said anybody that is working at a facility where there may be exposure, that person must be isolated but we were advised by experts that only certain workers in certain working environments need to be isolated from their families," he said. Hamunyela on Saturday said the ministry has engaged workers to resolve the situation.

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