As part of its efforts to improve access to quality health services, the government, through central and provincial hospitals, runs several schools of nursing which churn out dozens of nurses a year. Some church-run hospitals also train nurses which are supposed to be absorbed into the health care system.
The health sector, apart from education, is one of the areas where the government has scored notable successes which are recognised the world over. These successes are due in no small measure to the fact that most health facilities are now staffed by qualified staff.
Since independence, the government has made deliberate efforts to train nurses all of whom were assured of employment on successful completion of their courses.
Despite the inroads made in improving access to health, challenges remain, such as the continued dire shortage of personnel, especially at health institutions in remote areas which are usually shunned by qualified personnel.
The economic challenges leading to the adoption of the multiple currencies in 2009 saw experienced and qualified health personnel, including nurses, leaving the country in hordes for better opportunities.
But despite this desperate need for qualified nursing staff who have potential to save lives, some nursing graduates are still roaming the streets jobless.
This is in spite of the government lifting a freeze on recruitment of new nurses.
The freeze was introduced when government was trying to contain its wage bill faced with a scarcity of resources. However, because of the importance of the health sector, the government resolved to allow the Health Services Board to recruit nurses. This news must have been received with relief by the unemployed nurses.
The decision to employ the nurses made sense. Not least because the government had invested a lot in training them and allowing them to roam the streets was like pouring water down the drain.
The other reason why it was important to employ the nurses was that under-staffed clinics would now be manned by qualified personnel.
However, despite the government decision to lift the freeze, the majority of nurses have not been engaged. According to a story carried in our sister paper Sunday News, the jobless nurses will have to wait a bit longer before they can start work. Although no official comment was obtained from the HSB, a source said the board first has to identify which institutions needed staff.
This, according to us, is the height of bureaucratic bungling.
One wonders why the board is not even aware of the staff requirements at institutions that fall under its ambit.
The lifting of the freeze was done some time ago and recruitment was supposed to start on September 1, but from what sources in the board are intimating, nothing was done in the intervening period.
Recently, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa blamed delays in recruitment of new nurses on bureaucracy because as far as he was concerned, government had done its part and the onus was now on bureaucrats to implement government policy.
It seems the minister is right and someone, somewhere is sleeping on the job. Dr Parirenyatwa must crack the whip so that whoever is stalling the process to recruit nurses is held accountable.
The government has made big strides in improving the country’s health sector and employing more nurses will only add to the betterment of the sector.
Taxpayers are paying a lot to have nurses trained and they expect a return on this investment.