By Thandiwe Garusa
GOVERNMENT says it is not reading much into recent British plans to relax terms for foreign doctors and nurses wishing to be employed within its health institutions.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week promised to fast-track his country’s National Health Services (NHS) visas to make it easier for overseas doctors and nurses to work in the UK.
The policy measure ignited a media frenzy with claims the former colonial master was winking at hundreds of Zimbabwean junior doctors who have been fired by government for refusing to end their two-month strike over poor wages.
At a post-cabinet media briefing Tuesday, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo said government was treating the British stance as a normal policy variation by a sovereign state.
“We must take note that the British government has always been advertising for courses to recruit people from overseas; it is a continuous process,” Moyo said.
“So, the industrial action, incapacitation, whatever you may call it, it just merely coincides. This is an ongoing practice of the British government.
“You find out that they (Britain) were concentrating on nurses at one time, doctors on another occasion. So, I would like to say the British recruitment action has nothing to do with us.”
Moyo added, “They should feel free to recruit as they see fit. We can never stop them. Just like if we want to recruit, we can recruit as we see fit.
“It is just a privilege to each and every country to recruit wherever they feel that they want to recruit.
“And it is a very common issue that everybody knows. So, we will not be able to stop the officials because it is their right to recruit,” he said.
Just as Moyo was dismissing the British stance, a street away from Munhumutapa Building where the briefing was being held, MDC MP, Tendai Biti was pleading with national assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda to impress upon Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube to ensure his budget incorporated the concerns of disgruntled Zimbabwean doctors.
Biti said the country risked losing more than 300 doctors it has painstakingly been training to the British if Zimbabwean authorities did nothing to remedy the crisis.
“Speaker I am quite disturbed by the fact that the United Kingdom (UK) government has given special exemptions to doctors from foreign countries wanting to work there,” Biti said.
“Unless we address the situation, we are going to lose over 300 doctors that the country trained and paid for to the UK. So I am requesting that the minister gives a ministerial statement on the issue.”