Botswana nurses eye Namibian jobsBy: JANA-MARI SMITH
AT least 30 Botswana nurses are looking for greener pastures in Namibia after they were fired following a civil servants’ strike in Botswana last year.
Although no official agreement exists between the Namibia and Botswana, Health Minister Richard Kamwi yesterday said the nurses would be welcomed with open arms amidst a critical shortage of registered nurses in Namibia.
Currently the ministry has an open-ended memorandum of understanding to recruit Kenyan-registered nurses, doctors and other health workers. A similar memorandum could be signed with Uganda in the next few months, Kamwi said yesterday. No such agreement exists with Botswana, which is also struggling with a shortage of registered nurses.
Minister Kamwi admitted that when the Botswana nurses first indicated their interest in Namibian jobs, he decided to first consult with his Botswana counterparts because “we are both facing shortages of nurses”. Kamwi added that he was at first “hesitant to recruit them given the nature of what happened there”.
Kamwi said the nurses were fired by the Botswana government during a lengthy salary dispute between civil servants and government last year.
“Those who went on strike were immediately dismissed. And they are now looking for jobs.”
After consulting with the Botswana High Commission in Windhoek and also the health minister of in that country, “I was assured that we may consider taking them,” Kamwi said.
He said although Namibia is urgently looking for nurses, he wants to make it clear to them “that just like Botswana, Namibia has laws and we have the Labour Act and if they join us as civil servants they must stick to the laws of the country. That must be respected”.
Reports indicate that 30 nurses sent applications to Namibia, but the Namibian Nursing Council, after scrutinising their papers, have only invited 10 for evaluations so far.
The nurses are expected to arrive in Namibia this month to be evaluated. If they pass the evaluation they will have to be registered by the Namibian Nursing Council and could proceed to apply for jobs in the country, depending on work permits.
Media reports from Botswana say nurses who lost their jobs during the strike are also considering job opportunities in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which have sent recruiting agents to South Africa.
According to Kamwi, Namibia does struggle, severely, in some places to fill vacancies.
In the Kunene, Karas and Hardap regions, “we are talking about 45 per cent vacancies”, he said yesterday. Other regions have vacancies of 10 to 30 per cent of the number of nurses needed there.
Meanwhile, Namibia is training nurses at the University of Namibia and six training centres have opened across the country to train healthcare workers.