Bulawayo councillors have waded into the controversial recruitment of student nurses at local institutions, urging the local authority to recruit local health workers at its health centres.
Speaking at the recent full council meeting, the city fathers said the council should recruit people from the region who are fluent in local languages and understand the culture of the region.
Opposition political parties, civil society organisations, and locals have criticised the government online recruitment platform saying it disadvantages locals, as they are sidelined with most of the people who are recruited, are not from the region.
Ward 1 Councillor Mlandu Ncube said patients die in hospitals due to failure by health workers to communicate with patients due to language barriers.
“Our people die in hospitals because they get someone who can not communicate with patients. As a local authority, we should put a deliberate policy that protects our patients. It is not about tribe or where you come from but understanding and belonging to a community that you are serving,” said Cllr Ncube.
“If you stay in Bulawayo, nurses have to understand the language spoken in Bulawayo so that they can help the community.”
Councillor Ncube added that the government was to blame for the biased selection of trainee nurses.
“If you come from Mrewa then you get employment at Pelandaba clinic, it will be difficult for one to speak in Isindebele, they will be forced to resort to English. We cannot afford nurses who use English at our local clinics.
“It is not a crime that you were born there and learned there, the problem is someone who denied you entry in a school where you come from.
“We need people who know the Bulawayo community, let us not kill our residents,” said Cllr Ncube.
Ward 22 councillor, Rodney Jele said there was a need to speak out against the biased recruitment of trainee nurses as most of those nurses will be deployed to local health institutions.
“The risk that we have is that when we hire nurses in our clinics, we hire people who train in institutions such as Mpilo Hospital,” said Cllr Jele.
Cllr Jele added: “At the end of the day when those students are now qualified to be nurses when we advertise vacancies, they will be the same people who will apply in our clinics. They will, however, fail to communicate with our grandmothers at our clinics. How are we going to handle the situation when residents start interrogating us.”
The councillor also accused the City fathers of remaining quiet when other pressure groups were speaking out on the issue.
“We should have stated to protect Bulawayo residents. ZAPU and Umthwakazi group went to Mpilo but the Mayor has not said anything. The government will end up thinking they did the right thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni said he is going to engage relevant government departments and stakeholders on the way forward concerning policy on the recruitment of government employees.
“We need to resolve this at the policy level so that we don’t have to keep on referring to this matter.
“This is not only happening in the health sector it is also happening in parastatals where recruitment of employees is done at Head Offices in Harare,” said Mayor Mguni.
“Its also now more pronounced even in the private sector where shop floor workers are being recruited from as far as Mutare.”