Health workers trained using tax payers’ money owe us – says Chiwenga amid mass exodus of nurses, doctors

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By Anna Chibamu

VICE President Constantino Chiwenga has said health workers trained locally using Zimbabwe’s resources must ‘pay back’ through working in public hospitals.

Chiwenga added that in the future will vet prospective nurses and doctors, and only train those displaying ‘patriotism’.

Zimbabwe’s health sector is currently facing an exodus of nurses and other health professionals to the diaspora due to poor remuneration.

Responding to questions from legislators last week following his ministerial statement on the status of the health delivery system, Chiwenga, who doubles up as health minister said government was paying health workers what the Treasury can afford.

“Members spoke about remuneration, it is very good and that is what Zimbabwe can afford for now,” Chiwenga said.

He warned that those wishing to leave must pay back the taxpayer’s money that was used to train them saying only loyal ones will be trained in the future.

“When you are trained by taxpayers’ money you owe those taxpayers. It is not the intention of government to enforce the law that will make every citizen stuck for that minimum contract to repay that money which the government would have used in his or her training.

“We expect that when one citizen is trained by government using the tax payers’ money and they also take an oath, they are not forced; it is not a compulsory thing that a person should go and do A, B, C. You go on your own volition.

“In the case of nurses or doctors, they have got oaths that they take. Those are sufficient. Only patriotic Zimbabweans will come to train and we shall train them,” added Chiwenga.

The VP warned that due to the skills drain, the recruitment policy was now stiffer than before.

“When it comes to who wants to be trained now, we now have strict policies. There will be some cries that we are no longer being taken for nurse training.

“We shall vet and recruit people who want to work for the people of Zimbabwe.”

The government has been accused of withholding verification letters needed by thousands of health workers to secure jobs outside the country.

Chiwenga said the nurses would only get their certificates after “paying back” through working in government hospitals.

“By the way, the certificates are ours. We issued the certificates. They did not come from their homes with the certificates.”

Marondera Central MP Caston Mateu told Chiwenga that health workers were leaving because they were earning peanuts.

Before allowances, a trained nurse earns ZWL 45000 in Zimbabwe which is only US$11 or less.

“With all respect, acting President, intake of more trainees and more training centres do not address the fundamental cause.

“People are leaving this country because they are paid peanuts. Nurses and doctors are paid peanuts. That is why they are leaving this country. It is not because we do not have enough training schools and it is not because we are not recruiting more people. So, let us address the issue of remuneration for our health professionals,” Mateu told Chiwenga.

Chiwenga wants to make it a criminal offence for recruitment agencies to poach health workers from Zimbabwe.

He says the country should not be subjected to training doctors and nurses for the benefit of other nations.

However, his proposed legislation has been met with anger and frustration.