Hundreds of people thronged Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo, Monday, with the hope of being recruited as student nurses following the controversial recruitment of nurses a week ago where locals from Matabeleland were reportedly sidelined.
Some came as far as Binga in Matabeleland North, with one applicant saying he spent ZWL$110 on transport for the trip, while others from Maphisa in Matabeleland South.
These applicants said they unsuccessfully applied for nursing, teaching and other public service jobs yet they were qualified having passed their O and A levels.
The call to go to Mpilo Nursing School was made by the revolutionary party, ZAPU, who last Friday challenged the hospital over the matter and urged qualified but unemployed youths to besiege the hospital.
Due to the numbers of prospective students who turned up, lessons at the Mpilo Nursing School were temporarily halted with officials citing “safety reasons.”
A ZAPU delegation led by its National Organising Secretary, Retired Lieutenant Colonel, John Zolane Dlamini, met with the Mpilo Chief Executive Officer, Leonard Mabhandi, Clinical Director, Dr Solwayo Ngwenya, and other administrative staff over the recruitment process.
Dlamini inquired what government policy was in place, which neglected locals in their own setting and one that institutions such as Mpilo implemented without questioning it.
“Why is the government cutting corners because from my experience working in the public sector, there must be equal opportunities to all and this recruitment of nurses is unfair,” he said.
Dlamini demanded to see the policy documentation that necessitated the change from the old recruitment system to the current e-recruitment system so that they could trace it back to the government.
“Provide documentation that announced the change of policy because if this new recruitment was done verbally or over a phone call that is not policy. There must be a proper document that speaks to this,” said the ZAPU official.
In response, Mpilo CEO said the hospital had no authority or power to recruit nurses and just followed orders that came from the head office in Harare.
Mabhandi added that the hospital was informed by the head office last year that for 2019, no recruitment for nurses from January until further notice would take place.
“There was no recruitment from January and May following the government policy. Recruitment was done at local institutions but then the head office introduced an e–recruitment system that was not handed over to us. We were not managing it as it was managed at head office. That is the policy issue and we as administrators follow and obey our principals,” he said.
The Mpilo CEO noted that in this current case, they did not have a hand in the recruitment of nurses, having also heard the matter from the media or from those who came to inquire what had happened.
“You are right that those aspiring to be nurses from this region should have benefitted. Everyone would agree as that makes sense but I as the administrator don’t have the power to change this policy. If this team was able talk to the Minister (of Health and Child Care) and say this is what we want, that would be the best,” Mabhandi said.
He added that bringing in students to the nursing school seemed ideal but would not work as reversing or stopping lessons was done by Harare.
“I have to tell you truth because those procedures are sanctioned by head office, as administrators, we implement a system we are given. At the end of day, I don’t even have power to pay those students who are recruited because recruitment is almost like employment. I have no power or authority and this is the challenge. The person who can adequately answer you is not here,” the Mpilo CEO said.
Mpilo Clinical Director concurred that the government took their recruitment powers from them as hospitals only received a list of nurses.
“The list comes from government and I advise that you take this matter with them so you can trace who did this. This was made in Harare and you should trace the one who came up with the idea, since we here have no power. We were doing well with our old system but that was taken from us. As ZAPU also consider approaching the presidium such as (Vice President Kembo) Mohadi or (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa and highlight these issues,” Dr Ngwenya said.
The Mpilo CEO also showed the ZAPU delegation a memo to the effect that suspended the recruitment of student nurses from 2019 thereafter, signed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gerald Gwinji.
Mabhandi also dismissed reports that the Minister at a graduation ceremony last week Friday said the government would decentralise the e-recruitment of nurses to provinces, saying “no official communication was made or decision taken concerning that.”
He also said he would write a letter to the Permanent Secretary in the health ministry to inform him of the challenges that were raised by the parties who were unhappy with the recruitment process.
That letter would be delivered today (Monday) and the same would be taken by ZAPU for further lobbying at the Minister of State for Bulawayo Province’s office.
After their briefing, the ZAPU delegation and Mpilo Clinical Director made their way to the nursing school, were they addressed the multitude of prospective students.
Dlamini told the applicants they would continue holding authorities into account until they dealt with the situation favourably and fairly while Dr Ngwenya thanked the prospective students for maintaining order.