By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The first batch of 20 nurses from Kenya is expected to arrive in Namibia tomorrow. Kenya’s High Commissioner to Namibia Tuneya H. Dado is in that country to brief the nurses before their departure for their new station. Confirming their arrival to New Era yesterday, the Minister of Health and Social Services Richard Kamwi said the first group of nurses is expected to arrive at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on Friday morning. The Acting Kenyan High Commissioner to Namibia Dr George Maroko and top Namibian Government officials are expected to welcome the new arrivals. More arrivals are expected later, to make up a total of 103 Kenyan nurses in Namibia. The latest turn of events in the health sector came after the Ministry of Health realised the urgency of addressing the pressing staff shortage at hospitals. Recently, the Minister of Health admitted that Namibian nurses are overworked due to the critical shortage of nurses in the country. Currently, there is a deficit of 525 registered nurses and an additional 975 vacant posts for enrolled nurses that have to be filled. As a result, local nurses in the public health sector are continuously overworked, causing some to resign and seek greener pastures in the private sector. In an attempt to plug the brain drain, the Ministry of Health decided last year to recruit nurses from Kenya. Upon their arrival, Kamwi said, the nurses will be taken through a two-week orientation programme at the National Health Training Centre in Windhoek, after which they will be dispatched first to the three regions of Caprivi, Kavango and Kunene. These regions were chosen as priority areas for now as they are the hardest hit by the staff shortage. The arrival of Kenyan nurses is intended to assist Namibia in coping with the staff shortage dilemma and not to take the jobs of Namibian nurses, as some members of the public and nurses have previously claimed. “They are only here on a two-year contract based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Namibia and Kenya. They are not here to take vacant positions of Namibians,” explained Kamwi. Besides this, Kamwi has expressed concern over the reluctance of local nurses to work in remote rural areas. “Our own qualified registered nurses do not want to operate in rural areas … either they choose the urban dwellings instead, saying it is too close to shopping centres, transport convenience. But I think some of these excuses are quite shabby,” said the minister in a previous interview with New Era. Volunteer nurses from as far as the United States, Austria and Cuba are willing to work in some of the remotest areas of the country. However, over the past few weeks, the ministry has been encouraging more local nurses to work in rural areas. “The honeymoon is about to be over, because these nurses were trained with government resources and we are encouraging them to spread their commitment to the regions as well,” said Kamwi. Meanwhile, in an effort to address the current shortage, the ministry is also training new intern nurses through the two-year Pre-Medical and pharmacy Programme at the University of Namibia. This year, 45 students have enrolled for the programme, while more interns are expected next year.
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