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‘Govt blocks nurses exodus’

Local News

GOVERNMENT has reportedly stopped issuing clearance letters for nurses in a bid to frustrate them from leaving the country for greener pastures.

This follows mass resignations that have hit the country’s public hospitals as health professionals migrate abroad for better salaries and working conditions.

In March, government doubled application fees for nurses’ confirmation letters and certificates from US$150 to US$300.

Official figures show that last year alone Zimbabwe lost nearly 1 800 nurses, mainly to Britain. That’s more than 10% of all the nurses working in public hospitals.

An email sent to a nurses’ union leader from the United Kingdom Nursing and Midwifery Council seen by NewsDay, revealed that the government was blocking nurses wishing to travel abroad.

“We have received notification that the Zimbabwe government has taken a decision to withhold issuing verification of qualification and character for its nurses who wish to join our register,” the letter read.

“In response to this, we are currently exploring ways in which we support applicants including alternative options where possible and whether they will provide the same assurance as verification from the nursing council.”

Health ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri directed questions to Health Service Board chairperson Paulinus Sikhosana, who said he was not the right person to comment on the issue.

“My department doesn’t deal with that issue.  You can call the ministry secretary,” Sikhosana also said.

A health expert, who requested anonymity, said although nurses were prepared to pay for verification letters, government had refused to budge.

“A lot of nurses have paid for their verification letters, but nothing is happening, they are not being approved. Government is continuously taking people’s money but not approving the qualifications. We are urgently asking the government to answer all this. We need dialogue,” the nurse said.

“This is a very serious issue where the Ministry of Health risks international isolation. The email was sent by the UK government and this will cascade to other European countries and this is not good. Verification of qualifications is supposed to be done by the Nurses’ Council but the current administration changed it. It said it wanted to approve, which is, therefore, not its duty according to an Act of Parliament. So it is violating the law.”

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