WINDHOEK: The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi has called on nurses to remain calm and to act professional by going back to work.
The minister’s call was received with anger, shouts and back-talking from the nurses who gathered at the Katutura State Hospital Nurses’ Home to listen to his address on their demands.
Nurses are demanding that the Health Ministry must re-grade their positions.
Kamwi held the meeting with the nurses on Tuesday, to brief them about progress made on their demands for salary increments and re-grading,
The minister said the negotiations on the re-grading and salaries increase are at a final stage, and nurses should wait calmly.
On the negotiation table, the government is led by Secretary to Cabinet Frans Kapofi while the workers are represented by the Secretary-General of the Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU) Peter Nevonga.
Kamwi promised to go back to consult the negotiations team, saying that he will come back to brief the disgruntled health workers on the outcome at a later stage.
The health workers were visible unhappy with Kamwi’s statements, and they started shouting rudely while the Minister spoke.
The minister repeatedly told the gathering: “I came here, not as employer, but a representative of your employer, which is the Public Service Commission. You invited me to come and address you, but not for you to shout at me. I did not come here under pressure, but duty-bound to address you as a minister.”
“Do not force me to give you an answer that I do not have,” he pleaded.
Workers were still not happy with whatever Kamwi was saying, and they continued to shout and disrupt him while he was speaking.
“We are hungry, angry, anxious and not satisfied with your answer,” shouted one of the nurses.
“As nurses, we cannot afford anything in this country. Nurses are living in ghettos in informal settlements because they cannot afford to pay rent for proper and descent accommodation. Do you expect a hungry person to run?” she questioned.
Another nurse said members of the public have even started to complain about the deteriorating services at the country’s state hospitals, saying health workers are rude because they are hungry.
The nurses also complained that the re-grading exercise has been in the pipeline for too long.
“For the past six years, we have been promised that our positions will be re-graded. We are tired now,” said another health worker.
Kamwi said he concurred with the nurses that the re-grading process has taken too long, and he also does not want to hear that nurses are living ghettos.
“But I want us to behave as professionally. I do not want to hear of wild cat strike. I ask you to go back to work while we consult with the government negotiating team,” he pleaded.
As he was leaving, nurses started booing and yelling at him.
Meanwhile, the Namibian Nurses Union’s (Nanu) Secretary-General, Abner Shopati said the nurses will first seek audience with Prime Minister Nahas Angula before they think of going on strike.