Thandeka Moyo, Health Reporter
NURSES on Monday received lump sum payments of up to $5 000 from Government as payment of outstanding allowances.
In a survey conducted by The Chronicle yesterday, nurses said they were shocked to get between $500 to about $5 200 in their bank accounts on Monday without any formal communication. The windfall sent a majority of them into panic mode.
“Do not use the money before getting clarification. It might be a mistake. The moment the Ministry (of Health and Child Care) realises the error, you may be garnished and go up to next year without getting paid,” warned a nurse in a WhatsApp chat group.
Speculation was thrown around with the major source of confusion being the huge differences in the amounts individual nurses received.
However, Ministry of Health and Child Care permanent secretary Retired Major General Dr Gerald Gwinji yesterday allayed the fears saying the payments were in order.
He said nurses should not be afraid to spend the money as it was what the Government owed them.
“The amounts reflected in some of our nurses’ personal accounts are not at all out of order. A lot of our nurses were wrongly assimilated when Government rationalised the Civil Service between 2008 and 2009,” said Dr Gwinji.
“Most were placed in grades below where they should have been resulting in their being prejudiced of the correct level of remuneration including allowances like housing and transport from 2010 until early this year. So cumulatively they were owed money by Government.”
Dr Gwinji said nurses who retired or resigned recently after having served during the period, were likely to get the money as well.
“It’s only technically sound to address the issue of retired nurses who were working during the period and Government may pay them as well.
“With the finalisation of this corrective exercise SSB has begun a phased approach to pay off these accumulated shortfalls, for some running into several thousand dollars given the time under prejudice. Recipients should therefore not be afraid to utilise their earnings. However if anyone is in doubt they can always approach our Human Resources Departments to get the necessary assurances,” said Dr Gwinji.
An official at a hospital said nurses working in the rural areas got significantly more than their urban based counterparts mainly due to their on-call allowances
Chronicle caught up with some of the nurses who said they were reluctant to use the money as there was no circular explaining the windfall.
“I got $5 200 in my account and I am not sure where it came from. We just decided to first wait because this was unexpected,” said one of the nurses.
“We did receive different amounts of money and we are not yet sure what criterion was used. Some of my juniors received more money compared to what I got and we hope to get clarity from the Health Services Board,” said another one who spoke on condition of anonymity.