Govt recruits foreign doctors
Sending a strong message that says to striking civil servants ‘You are not indispensable’ Government has embarked on an intensive and swift recruitment drive from across the SADC region to replace fired doctors and nurses who took part in a strike to demand a salary increment.
Speaking on the sidelines of a prolonged countrywide civil servants strike that threatened to bring the health sector to its knees, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Kolaatamo Malefho revealed that over 400 health professions have been fired while at least 1000 non professionals, who are also categorised as essential services by their virtue of being hospital employees, have also been dismissed.
The doctors and nurses were fired for defying a court order to go back to work after their participation in the strike as essential services providers was declared illegal by the courts of law.
“These employees defied a court order and we were left with no choice but to dismiss them. We have also started recruiting locally and beyond borders to fill in the vacancies,’’ he said.
Lambasting the media for what he said were exaggerated reports on the effects of the strike on the health sector, Dr Malefho who refused to say how many people died in hospital wards because of the strike said, “The whole thing was blown out of proportion by the media and the sad thing is that instead of people condemning this unethical act by doctors and nurses, people were actually glorifying and measuring the success of this strike by deaths of people in hospitals.”
“I cannot dispute the fact that hospitals and clinics have been affected by the strike but it is not as gross as the media is portraying it. People now have to wait longer to get services because of a reduced number of personnel hence our swift move to recruit and replace those we have lost,’’ he said, adding that it would not be difficult to replace labour as there were unemployed nurses who would be willing to join the civil service and many foreign doctors who would love to work and live in Botswana.
Concerning non-specialised jobs such as cleaning, cooking and others, Malefho said they have already contracted companies and have hired casual labour to replace them.
Asked on the logic behind firing local doctors whose education was fully paid for by government and replacing them with foreign doctors who usually get better pay, better perks and costly expatriate benefits such as accommodation in a hotel for three months while they wait to be allocated a government house, Malefho downplayed the issue and claimed that it was instead cheaper to have foreign doctors as they are not entitled to a pension scheme.
“Foreign doctors don’t have a pension and are not paid private practice so the issue of costs is out. And yes the government invested in training Batswana doctors but if they defy court orders then we cannot keep people who have no respect for the rule of law.”
He however said all was not lost for the fired doctors as there was a chance of eventually re-hiring those who would want to come back, but each case would be treated individually.
Meanwhile Malefho strongly denied that Cuban doctors who are expected to arrive in the country in June are coming in because of the strike, saying the government has always had a relationship with Cuba and there was an existing programme that brings Cuban doctors to Botswana every year to work in the health sector.