By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Health and Social Services Minister Dr Richard Kamwi has described his recent meeting with nursing staff in the south as a success. This comes in the wake of the nationwide disgruntlement of nurses and other health professionals over pay and working conditions. After Kamwi visited the two main hospitals in Keetmanshoop and Mariental this week, the nurses felt relieved to have at least had the platform to air their concerns, grievances about their working conditions and constraints directly to the health minister. “At least the minister came to see us face to face and listened to us. For some of us, this is the first time to meet the minister this way and we are very happy with the opportunity of him listening to us,” said Acting Nursing Manager, Magdalena Davids, at Mariental Hospital. The latest visit comes in the wake of the recent demonstration of nurses in the country over their disappointment with poor salaries and lack of overtime. In an effort to calm the nerves of anxious nurses around the country, Kamwi is undertaking an urgent tour of all health districts, starting first with the southern regions. When New Era contacted him yesterday for comment, he said the visit was worthwhile as it gave both sides the opportunity to get to know the matter at hand and how best to address it. “They gave me their concerns in writing through a petition, but from what I could gather here the recent demonstration of the nurses was due to a communication breakdown. There was no information,” he said, adding that he is also having some problems with the nursing managers who do not want to listen to take up the concerns of the nursing staff for the ministry’s attention. During his visit during the past two days, the minister heard that problems centred mainly on budget constraints and transport with the few ambulances that are operating beyond their lifespan. “The biggest outcry was over ambulances that have reached their lifespan,” he added. Currently, the Keetmanshoop hospital’s three ambulances are all in too bad a condition to be used effectively for staff members to carry out their work. As a result of this situation, the health officials can no longer conduct primary health care outreach programmes. Most of the hospital buildings in both towns are in a state of wear and tear, although Kamwi noted that they are being kept clean at all times. “Wear and tear has taken its course and although the paint is peeling off, the hospitals are clean,” he explained. Another concern raised by nurses is that some are not getting their uniforms on time and some disliked the attitude of their supervisors towards them. Yet all in all, he said, the nurses demonstrated their professionalism during the meetings. In view of the challenges facing many of the staff and the health ministry in general, the minister plans to hold an urgent meeting with all health managers in February next year. ” I heard of a nasty experience where one of the clerks was not receiving his salary for four months, and some nurses have not received their claims from as far back as April/May this year,” he said, adding that his meeting would help in nurturing transparency amongst all stakeholders in the health sector. The envisaged meeting is expected to be attended by regional health managers, district coordinating committees, directors, general personnel, regional directors and nursing managers. The health minister also plans to visit the Kavango and Caprivi regions this year before he ventures to the north next year where another major meeting will take place in Engela on January 17.