Health ministry dumped us into poverty

12 February 2019 | Health

A group of trainees who successfully completed a community-based healthcare training programme in 2017 accuse the health ministry of plunging them into poverty and despair with empty promises of jobs.

“We are worse off than when we began,” five of the more than 640 certified community health workers told Namibian Sun yesterday.

They are in Windhoek in the hope of meeting with senior health officials today.

Willem Kayongo (34), a spokesperson for the 640 trainees, says the broken promise of jobs has taken a heavy toll on their personal lives.

“I wake up stressed and frustrated. This is psychological abuse.

They don't listen to us. They just always tell us to be patient,” he says.

“But what must we do? Eat stone and grass? Being patient does not pay the bills.”

Jurgen Plaatjie, another successful trainee, says he was the sole breadwinner for his family before he quit his teaching post and enrolled for the healthcare training.

He says he was told he would definitely be employed after completing the course. Since then he has struggled to survive.

“The government has sent us back to the streets. Some are maybe criminals now because they are suffering.”

According to Kayongo many of them quit secure jobs when their applications to join the programme were approved.

Instead, struggling to get another job, he has had to move his children to a cheaper school, has accumulated debts, cancelled insurance policies and faces an insecure future.

He says the ministry made empty promises, created legitimate expectations, and then back-tracked repeatedly, plunging many into unemployment and poverty.



Violated

He says the ministry is guilty of violating the group's constitutional human right to dignity.

The more than 640 trainees were the third intake into the community health workers programme initiated by the ministry in 2012 in an effort to bring primary healthcare services to remote areas.

The trainees completed the programme in July 2017.

Records show that 2 298 community health workers in the 14 regions have successfully completed the programme since its inception, but the ministry has deployed only 1 649 due to tight budgets.

A notice issued by the director of Primary Health Care Services explained that the ministry could not deploy the last class of 649 community health workers “due to unavailability of funds.”



Talk to us

Since 2017, the trainees have tried several avenues to engage with the ministry, including demonstrations, petitions and reaching out to regional councils and the Public Service Union of Namibia, but to no avail.

Gabriel Tomea (27) who was employed in the agriculture sector before resigning and completing the training, says the ministry failed to take responsibility for the group, and “just dumped us on the street.”

He adds that the communities in which they were supposed to be deployed are also frustrated, as there is a genuine need for healthcare workers in poor rural communities.

The health ministry has announced that the initial target of deploying 4 113 health workers would be reduced to 2 136 because of budget cuts.

The group say the ministry has not taken their plight seriously and should identify alternative funding solutions to deploy them.

Moreover, the certificates they received are not recognised by the private sector, rendering their training useless in terms of searching for alternative jobs in the health sector.

Job Hifilenga, another trainee, says 96 trainees from the Ohangwena Region have not even received their certificates, despite numerous requests.

With today's meeting, they hope the ministry can “stop beating around the bush.”

Namibian Sun has approached the ministry for comment on the group's complaints and accusations.

In November, Nampa quoted the health ministry's spokesperson, Manga Libita, as saying the ministry had informed the group that budget cuts prevented the ministry from employing them.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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