FOR 35-year-old Lorraine Siziba, attaining a nurse aid’s certificate is nudging her closer to achieving her goals.
Siziba has never been formally employed since completing a Bachelor’s degree five years ago. She completed her studies in land surveying with flying colours, but finding a job has been an uphill task as companies downsize or close shop altogether due to the harsh economic climate.
Frustrated by shrinking opportunities in Zimbabwe, Siziba has now enrolled at a local institution for a first aid certificate so that she can leave the country.
“I have given up. I can’t spend my whole life holed up here, hoping that one day things will change. Years are passing by and soon I will be past my prime. I have already made arrangements that when I get the certificate, I am going to the United Kingdom,” Siziba said.
Siziba’s case is just a tip of the iceberg. A nurse aid recruitment craze has hit the country, with many nationals scrambling to get the certificate in the hope of making it to the United Kingdom in search of a better life.
The UK, which recently advertised vacancies in the health sector, is one of the countries paying nurse assistants lucratively. The UK says its health system needs to fill 110 192 posts left vacant after the death of frontline health workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The shortages include 39 652 nurses and 8 158 medical doctors, according to the latest quarterly data for vacancies published by the National Health Service (NHS).
Nursing assistants in the UK earn an average of £20 000 per annum (US$26 000), which translates to about US$2 100 per month. Nurse aide certificates have become a prized possession in the country. Desperate Zimbabweans seeking to escape the country’s never-ending socio-economic crisis are flocking to different institutions that have sprouted offering the nurse aid training certificates.
A survey showed that registered institutions such as Angel Care Home, Ocean Bird Nurse Aide Training Centre, and One Africa Trust are charging between US$100 and US$200 for the qualification.
Scammers have also sprouted, milking unsuspecting citizens their hard-earned cash. Zimbabwe Red Cross (ZRCS) secretary-general Elias Hwenga said there was a need to tighten the noose on institutions and agencies that offer bogus nurse aid and first aid qualifications.
“Lately, we have witnessed an increase in the number of bogus agencies offering nurse aid or first aid training in the country,” Hwenga said.
He said there were many organisations purporting to be working with the ZRCS in the training of nurse aides.
“As an organisation we are looking into the matter and we are doing investigations to get to the bottom of the story with regards to these bogus agencies,” Hwenga said.
The rush for the nurse aid certificates comes at a time when the government is struggling to stem the mass exodus of health professionals in search of better pay and working conditions.
Johannes Marisa, president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners’ Association of Zimbabwe, says the staff exodus is detrimental to the well-being of the country.
“Government should continue engaging healthcare workers for improved conditions of service. This will help curtail massive brain drain currently tormenting the health sector. All employees need reasonable remuneration, better working conditions, incentives in order to keep them motivated. Car loans, housing loans are of great importance to our dedicated and diligent health personnel,” Marisa said.
In March, the government increased fees for nurses’ confirmation letters and certificates needed when seeking employment abroad from US$50 to $300. Critics said the move was an attempt to frustrate them into abandoning their trips.
The letters confirm that the holder of the certificate has qualified as a nurse after training. There are no exact statistics on the number of health professionals that left the country in 2021, but the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association (Zina) put the figure at just over 2 000.
Last year, the government announced plans to ban doctors and nurses from embarking on strike for more than three days under new proposed amendments to the Health Services Act.
The Health Services Act was enacted in February 2005 to provide for the establishment of the Health Services Board (HSB) and the transfer of persons engaged in public health service delivery from the Public Service Commission (PSC) to the HSB.
Under the Health Services Amendment Bill, worker representatives who face charges of inciting nurses and doctors to embark on a strike action deemed illegal could be jailed for three years in what authorities argue is necessary to ostensibly “instil discipline” in the health sector.
But Marisa said this is a violation of labour rights.
“There is a general feeling that the Bill (if enacted) will see the government forcing its employees to work against their will. There are times when health workers become genuinely incapacitated,” he said.
Source – NewsHawks