First 10 Nurses Arrive from Kenya

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi will this morning welcome the first group of 10 Kenyan nurses who arrived in the country on Friday. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Science (Malariology) was conferred on Kamwi over the weekend. On Wednesday, 10 more nurses are expected to arrive. They were delayed in South Africa due to technicalities with their transit visas. Last Friday, the New Era team caught up with the first batch of Kenyan nurses who landed shortly before midday at the Hosea Kutako International Airport. Counsellor of the Kenyan High Commission Dr George Maroko, Chief Control Registered Nurse Gloria Mubale as well as other senior Government officials from the Ministry of Health were present to welcome the new employees. The nurses are part of the group of 103 who are expected to arrive in the country to ease the shortage burden at some hospitals. The two-year cooperation agreement between the two governments of Kenya and Namibia was signed four years ago with the view to address Namibia’s problem. Recently, Kamwi admitted that the local nurses are overworked due to the lack of qualified nurses in the country. Presently, there is a deficit of 525 registered nurses and an additional 975 vacant posts for enrolled nurses that have to be filled. While Namibia is one of the many countries that are experiencing shortage of qualified nursing staff, Kenya on the other hand has an abundance of such health personnel, which they are willing to share. “We have over produced nurses in Kenya and the nurses who have arrived from many district hospitals in Kenya are here on a two-year contract basis,” explained Kenyan High Commission Counsellor Dr Maroko, adding that the new nurses will stay in the country for “as long as they are required by Namibia”. In spite of the brain drain and departure of many of its most skilled professionals, Kenya is not short of nurses. According to the National Nurses Association, 7 000 nurses are jobless and the same number of extra hires is needed. The 103 nurses who are expected in Namibia were chosen out of 500 applicants through a rigorous selection process. Therefore, the nurses who arrived last Friday are highly qualified, with many years of working experience behind them. Mubale said that currently the output level of new nurse interns from the University of Namibia cannot meet the rising demands of the health sector in the country, hence the need for outside assistance in this regard. “We are training nurses, but the output is not enough and the biggest problem we have is to get those nurses to work in rural areas because the need is much greater out there,” explained Mubale, adding that last year’s Unam output was too low. It has become apparent that most local nurses refuse to work in the rural areas where the need is greater. As a result, the newly recruited Kenyan nurses who are qualified mostly in theatre and intensive care will be dispatched to the Kavango, Caprivi and Kunene regions first, after undergoing a two-week orientation at the National Health Training Centre in Windhoek. “I ask the nation to receive these nurses and assist them, because they are not here to take your jobs, so be receptive and help,” added Mubale. During the orientation the new recruits will get a brief introduction to the country’s different health policies. They will also be introduced to the country’s malaria programme as well as the current HIV/Aids situation and immunisation programme. For most of them, coming to work in Namibia for the first time is an exciting venture, while at the same time nurturing the already good health exchanges between the two countries. “It’s good to be adventurous and as Africans we are here to help our fellow African folk of Namibia,” said Jacquelyne Ngunyi who hails from the Webuye District Hospital in western Kenya. As for Mary Ongondo who has been in the nursing profession for the past 28 years, coming to Namibia was much better than going overseas where one’s work is less appreciated. “I would have gone a long time ago to UK, but one’s efforts are never appreciated. Here in Namibia I can help my fellow Africans who will appreciate my work more,” said Ongondo, adding that it is high time that Africans go out of their way to help one another. Namibia’s relations with Kenya have come a long way. Namibia has sent heart patients to Kenya for surgery and the Kenyan government also assisted Namibia in setting up its own cardiac unit at the Katutura Hospital.