The future of some nursing students from University of Namibia(UNAM) and the International University of Management(IUM) is in jeopardy because the ministry has frozen the recruitment lines.
The ministry’s former permanent secretary, Andreas Mwoombola, wrote to the tertiary institutions offering nursing courses in the country on 13 October informing them of the decision to freeze nursing posts in the public service. In the letter, he said the ministry will not be able to employ final-year nursing students due to the freezing of positions.
The frozen posts come at a time when the public health facilities are hit by an extreme shortage of nurses which is worsened by the crippled national economy.
One of the affected graduates, 24-year old Yoolokeni Vatileni and many of her colleagues are still at home waiting for placement. The Patriot spoke to Vatileni earlier this week saying she has returned to the village to help her parents with field work as she has no job.
“The aim of finishing school was to be able to support our parents but here I am still depending on them. We have not heard anything from the ministry about placements yet so we are just home,” said Vatileni.
Vatileni, who will graduate in April 2018 from the nursing school, says it is difficult to look for a job without being registered with the Health Professions Council of Namibia. Before the freezing of the posts, nurses graduates from UNAM were guaranteed employment at public health facilities.
“If I see a vacancy in the newspapers, I cannot even make the mistake of sharing it with my colleagues because it is survival of the fittest,” she narrated.
The placement crisis comes at a time when ongoing talks about Zimbabwean nurses whose contracts have lapsed stands to be renewed. The talks have been received stern opposition by unemployed Namibian nurses.
“How can the ministry even think of renewing the contracts of the Zimbabwean nurses when we have our own unemployed? It is unusual to wait till this time and what is worrying is that we are not getting any answers from both the ministry and UNAM,” she said.
A practicing nurse who preferred anonymity revealed to this publication that plans are already underway to renew the contracts of 10 Zimbabwean nurses at the Windhoek Central Hospital’s maternity ward.
“It is sad that we neglect our people. We are understaffed and it only makes sense to recruit the nurses fresh out of school. The argument that they are sometimes not experienced does not hold any water because it is the case with every intake from university and with time they gain the needed skills on the job. Most of the Zimbabwean nurses also started from scratch, so it is only fair to recruit our own especially when we have the numbers outside and we are understaffed,” said the nurse.
Last year, this publication pronounced a similar narrative of the fraternity being understaffed. At the time, there were cases of nurses leaving the public sector for the private hospitals. There were also cases of nurses faking illnesses in order to get sick leave with the aim of resting from the busy work load.
At present, the sector is expected to absorb nursing graduates from UNAM, IUM, Welwitschia University and the ministry’s health training centres.
At a press conference yesterday in Windhoek, the health minister Dr. Bernard Haufiku shared light on the placements. According to Haufiku, the ministry has absorbed 147 nurses in December 2017, of which Ohangwena absorbed the largest chunk. This is on top of 110 medical interns that have been placed this year.
Answering to queries about the nurses who have not yet been placed, Haufiku said there is still another placement process in the pipeline.
“For those who have not yet been placed, it is not all doom. We will place them as posts in the industry become available,” said Haufiku while calling on the graduates to remain patient.
“We are doing our best under the circumstances. In some cases we are understaffed and some of our nurses are leaving the public service, so it is only natural that we absorb those who qualify,” he said.
Haufiku also extended a stern warning against those studying at unaccredited institutions outside the country and expecting to be absorbed into the system. Parents must be vigilant when sending their children to universities when it comes to accreditation. The medical profession is a highly standardized profession and we are not prepared to lower the standards,” stated Haufiku.