By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The Namibia Nurses Union (Nanu) has vowed to go ahead with the planned demonstration tomorrow unless the Prime Minister or the officials of the Ministry of Health and Social Services agree to enter into dialogue with them. At a media briefing yesterday, the Secretary General of Nanu, Abner Shopati, said the planned demonstration, which will affect all state hospitals and clinics countrywide, was on and only the intervention of senior government officials would bring it to a halt. Shopati said the demonstration would take place tomorrow between 12h00 and 14h00, and the Ministry of Health and Social Services should be ready to take responsibility for any inconvenience that may occur. “The ministry is to blame for the demonstration tomorrow and any other inconveniencies that may occur, including compromised patient care.” The Nanu secretary general said in as much as the nurses value the patients, the ministry should recognize the existence and grievances of its employees. Shopati said the ministry has taken an arrogant approach by refusing to speak to Nanu and by claiming that Napwu is the only bargaining unit for the nurses. “The ministry has taken a unilateral decision to change service benefits for nurses and security orderlies without consultation and is refusing to engage in dialogue with the popular union for the majority of the nurses.” He challenged the ministry to conduct a referendum to determine which of the two unions truly represents the nurses. Taking a swipe at the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, Shopati accused him of distancing himself from their grievances and then intimidating nurses especially in Oshakati. “It is a shame that Kamwi has been so reluctant, watching the situation deteriorate to unacceptable standards without cautioning his permanent secretary, and then using tactical threats towards nurses.” He added that the nurses at Oshakati Hospital are mature adults and that Kamwi’s targeting the hospital because of its popularity was a wrong strategy. “His tactical manoeuvres are hereby condemned and Kamwi should know that nurses observed all diplomatic means as professionals, but because he lives in a glass house he would not bother.” At the same press conference, the President of Nanu, Timo Gebhard, said it is disappointing that the ministry wants to downplay the grievances of the nurses, calling them a misunderstanding in terms of calculating overtime. Gebhard said the grievances are about overtime, salary structure and job grading. He complained that the positions of other medical professionals such as radiographers, pharmacists and doctors have been reviewed and improved over the last years but the grading of nurses has remained the same. “A fully qualified registered nurse earns N$10 000 less than a pharmacist who has the equivalent qualifications and experience.” When asked whether the ministry has precautionary measures in place in case the demonstration affects the welfare of patients, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Services Dr Shangula said he did not want to speculate on what would happen tomorrow. He noted that his ministry has no mandate to discuss conditions of service of its employees and that the mandate is with the Office of the Prime Minister. The Khomas Region, which employs over 1 300 nurses, is likely to be the most affected by the demonstration, followed by the Oshakati State Hospital, which employs over 520 nurses.
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