MoHSS scrutinises legality of employee termination

• By  MARX ITAMALO

THE Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) top brass reportedly held a meeting a week ago to discuss the legality and rationale behind the termination health workers contracts, two months before the contracts were due to  come to an end.

MoHSS Executive Depuy Director, Shikamela Nghipunya, Human Resource Director, Anna Isaak and ministry legal advisor, Joseph Siseho held a meeting with disgruntled fired ex-employees from the Khomas region to discuss their termination, its legality and payment of November and December salaries. Also discussed the payment of leave days and the possibility of MoHSS adsorbing the ex-workers permanently.

According to sources, the issues will be discussed again by the ministry hierarchy in the coming days.

Meanwhile, disgruntled health extension workers, whose contracts were terminated by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) at the beginning of this month are pleading with the ministry to let them work until the last day of December this year, and to be re-employed at the ministry on a permanent basis again.

They say terminating their contracts is akin to throwing them into the streets and thus leaving them in a precarious situation and that this will have a detrimental effect on their families and dependents.

The workers were trained in 2016 by the health ministry for six months, to qualify as health extension workers who would serve in various communities tasked with visiting the elderly to monitor their progress while on medication and make referrals were possible, check on infants and children under the age of five (5) and detect malnutrition as well as ensuring chronic ailment patients take their medication and don’t default.

They were also tasked with lending a helping hand at local clinics and health centres around the country.

But upon the completion of their training, the ministry said it could not employ them citing the unavailability of funds, however, lady luck smiled on them when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Namibian, coercing the health ministry to employ them as health assistants to help fight the pandemic after contingency budgetary allocation were made to the ministry as a mitigating factor to fight the spread of Covid-19.

At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the workers were tasked with assisting permanent ministry staff dealing with Covid-19 related illnesses by creating awareness, distributing sanitary wares and information materials as well as helping out with the burials of victims.

However, in September this year, news on termination of their contracts fell on them like a ton of bricks.

“I am on a Health Worker’s WhatsApp group and one day a termination letter for one of ours colleague from the ministry of health in Khomas was posted. It left us reeling in shock and confusion. We could not believe that our contracts would be terminated two months before the actual time as stipulated in our contracts,” Jonas Shiwayu, an affected worker in Ohangwena told Confidente this week.

He pleaded with the health ministry to take them back and allow them to continue working until the end of December as stipulated in their contracts.

“We have obligations to meet every month and we had planned for up to December. How do they expect us to survive by taking our jobs in this manner,” he questioned, whilst accusing the ministry of being insensitive towards them.

One termination letter seen by Confidente and authored by MoHSS Executive Director, Ben Nangombe, on September 21, reads in part, “This communique serves to inform you that due to considerable decline in Covid-19 cases, the repeal of all Covid-19 public health regulations on August 25and the unfavourable financial situation in the ministry, it has been resolved that your services be terminated with effect from November 1 2022.”

Nangombe further urged those given government properties and gadgets such as cellphones, laptops, computer tablets, vehicle tags and fuel cards to return them.

Asked for a comment, MoHSS representative in the North, Kalumbi Shangula referred Confidente to Nangombe.

“That matter is being deal with by the Executive Director. “Call him,” he said before hanging up. 

When contacted for a Nangombe said he was in a meeting upon and insisted questions be sent to him via text message. However, he did not respond to them and could not pick up his phone afterwards.

Efforts to get a comment from the labour Commission’s Public Relations Officer Maria Hedimbi yielding no results as her phone went unanswered