Government urged to unfreeze nursing posts

Source: Government urged to unfreeze nursing posts | The Financial Gazette September 22, 2016

By Nyasha Chingono
THE Health Service Board (HSB) has urged government to unfreeze recruitment of nurses as the country’s health delivery system grapples with lack of personnel amid a growing population, the Financial Gazette can report.
Government froze recruitment of nurses in 2012, a situation that has led to critical shortages in hospitals mainly in rural areas, with the nurse to patient ratio currently at 1,2 per 1 000 patients.
The state of the country’s hospitals is based on a 1983 regime, when the population was estimated at seven million people.
Now, with an estimated 14 million people, the health delivery system is in dire need of more nurses.
The HSB has been lobbying government on the possibility of unfreezing the posts to adequately staff hospitals.
“We have always been saying that freezing of the posts is not the answer, especially when our rural hospitals have no staff,” HSB chairperson, Lovemore Mumbengeranwa, told the Financial Gazette in Victoria Falls.
But with government failing to timeously pay civil servants already on its payroll, employing more nurses would mean seeking additional funding for new recruits, a mammoth task given that government’s financial circumstances are dire at the moment.
The HSB has, with technical assistance from the World Health Organisation (WHO), implemented a workload indicator of staffing needs, a scientific management technique that determines the actual staffing requirements.
Over 3 500 nurses are unemployed due to a freeze in recruitment.
Government is currently undertaking a staff rationalisation programme under which it wants to sack at least 25 000 civil servants.
Although the plan included salary and allowance cuts across the board, the fiscal policy measures were annulled as soon as they were announced to curb social unrest.
“It’s the economy that makes government come up with such policies, but it is our wish that recruitment be opened for nurses to cater for the shortages because we are burning out the current workforce,” Mumbengeranwa said.
The Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA)’s secretary general, Enock Dongo, said government should expedite the process of establishing a new nursing structure to adequately staff hospitals.
“Our challenge is that we are using the 1983 establishment which does not give room for the employment of more nurses. So according to that archaic establishment, the hospitals are full. We therefore need a new nursing establishment because our population has grown over the years,” said Dongo.
Dongo said the recent austerity measures  were unlikely to affect nurses since Zimbabwe’s hospitals were understaffed.
“It’s not possible for them to lay off nurses because there is already a critical shortage. The other problem is that no new posts are being created and the posts created through replacements are not enough to employ all the graduates,” Dongo said.
Funding has been a major setback for the Ministry of Health and Child Care as it is currently on relief aid from the Global Fund for critical shortage areas and for the treatment of HIV and Tuberculosis.
This has assisted in cushioning the health sector from further lose of manpower due to the great trek abroad in search of greener pastures and favourable working conditions.
About 1 500 nurses graduate every year in Zimbabwe.
An agreement was recently reached to find unemployed nurses jobs in Namibia, a destination which seems to be attracting Zimbabwe’s medical personnel due to its favourable working conditions.