Nurses working at government-run hospitals and clinics across the country are threatening to go on a strike in protest against the Permanent Secretary Dr Kolaatamo Malefho’s decision to upgrade clinics and nurses which saw junior nurses’ salary scales shooting up and supervising their former supervisors. Malefho finds himself at the receiving end of angry nurses who say that his decision has resulted in inexperienced nurses being promoted over their experienced seniors.
In a document passed to the Sunday Standard, Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) Secretary General Ruth Mokgethi said the savingram issued this year by Malefho stated that only those nurses serving as clinic heads currently should have their profiles submitted. “Immediately upon learning about this intention, the drama started. Nurses, who were not favoured, were misplaced to facilities which were not going to be graded. The years of services were inflated by some of the cheaters and submitted their profiles,” she said. According to Mokgethi, upon learning about the exercise, her union tried to intervene by drawing the Ministry’s attention. “Some of the points advanced by BONU were towards indiscriminately assessing nurses within this ministry head by head which will address most of the concerns raised by nurses,” she said.
Mokgethi added that the union also “approached the Directorate of Public Service Management in July this year which never intervened until last week when the damage was already done.”
“As we speak our members are so touched to an extent that one of them died. We have no intention of using this comrade’s death to bargain, however, it is inevitable that we will mention it. She became a victim as she has been running a clinic at C1 scale and was moved despite her triple qualification back-up by experience and her junior given a senior position with two year salary scales above her, pathetic comrades,” she said. Mokgethi said her union is in the process of getting a fresh mandate from its members to fast track the issue towards the ultimate resolution.
“If this was not wrongly timed, BONU would be pleading to members of the public for support,” she said. Mokgethi added that “nurses are really suffering under the leadership of Dr Malefho, he has such an uncompromising spirit despite the good job they do. The Ministry of Health is heading towards a total collapse under the current regime if they do not change their attitude,” said Mokgethi. She said her union is not going to “sleep over this matter; we will take possible strategic measures to ensure that we are given an audience. We are ready to face the hassles.” The Union also questioned the wisdom of merging council clinics and central government hospitals if the upgrading exercise excluded nurses at the hospitals. The Union said that the exercise is “not fair because no equity was provided for nurses who have served both in the peripheries and ministry of health facilities for a considerable length of time.”
The union said the decision by Malefho has resulted in the most experienced nurses feeling worthless and have become less productive. “A demoralised nurse is a danger to public health and service delivery,” she said. Mokgeti said since BONU was not consulted they intend to approach the Commission of Labour to declare a conflict dispute of right adding that they do not rule out the possibility of downing tools. Health Ministry spokesperson, Doreen Motshegwa confirmed that she was aware of the union’s intention to have audience with Malefho.
She said she learnt recently that the union had been trying to have audience with the Permanent Secretary. “An officer informed me that he met with the leadership of the union on Wednesday and briefed a senior manager who then told him that they would brief the Permanent Secretary,” she said.