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Nurses unsettled as fight against COVID-19 heats up

INNOCENT SELATLHWA
Health and Wellness minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
While the country, just as the rest of the world is going all out to fight coronavirus, the most critical of the essential staff being health professionals find themselves on lockdown instead of the frontline.

Sources within the nursing sector told this publication many of them are home instead of at work as the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Botswana (NMCB) is reluctant to issue them practising licenses despite the plea from ministry officials and union leaders. 

According to Botswana Nurses Union’s (BONU) vice president, Vusi Phela, nurses renewed licences late due to a change in the system that brought about confusion within the profession.

“The nurses ended up paying late and were told they would be penalised despite efforts to show that it was not deliberate. We spoke to Dr (Patrick) Masokwane to intervene as he had written to Botswana Health Professionals Council (BHPC) to have health workers renew their licenses without penalties, but he told us that the NMCB Registrar refused,” he said. Phela said nurses pay P50 per qualification and the penalty is P1,300. He said they have more than 200 nurses who had found themselves in the situation.

MmegiOnline has seen a memo from MOHW instructing BHPC registrar to waive penalties for health professionals who registered late in the effort to boost staff in the fight against coronavirus.

Botswana Land Board Local Authorities and Health Workers Union on April 1 wrote to government,

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MoHW and Registrar NMCB stating that some nurses could not manage with renewal of their licenses only to be told the registrar was unavailable or the system was down. BLLAHWU secretary general Ketlhalefile Motshegwa also bemoaned in the letter that some District Health Management Teams (DHMT) sends such workers home and record them as absent from duty. He called on the authorities to facilitate assistance to concerned officers for renewal of licenses.

NMCB Registrar Hanna Kaukigua could not be reached for comment as her mobile phone rang unanswered. Health and Wellness minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape said they have since written to both registrars and that nurses would be assisted. He, however, said there was no uniform solution to the situation stating that not all nurses will have their licenses renewed.

On another sad note nurses are disconcerted after government failed to provide transport during the lockdown. Nurses believe arrangements could have been made as not all of them use or own cars to travel to work. Some nurses travel more than 50km to work and today they had to succumb to horror as some walked for quite significant distances to get to work due to unavailable public transport.



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