The nursing recruitment drive by the Ministry of Health and Child Care has been described as laborious, with applicants and observers saying it was poorly executed.
Interviews for potential nurses were conducted on January 2 and 3, 2020 at two centres, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) School of Nursing in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa Adlam House in Harare.
Invited candidates were supposed to bring their original O level and A level certificates, birth certificates, identification cards and marriage certificates where applicable while those shortlisted for interviews at UBH were supposedly to be deployed to Mpilo, UBH and Kwekwe School of Nursing.
Those interviewed at Parirenyatwa’s Adlam House were to be deployed to Harare Central Hospital, Parirenyatwa and Chitungwiza Schools of Nursing.
But the process from the e-application stage to the interviews turned out to be a nightmare for some applicants, as the phases were ‘cumbersome and frustrating.’
In a new development, the Ministry of Health and Child Care acknowledged that due to “short notice and due to internet connection problems” some shortlisted candidates missed the interviews held recently.
“It is against this background that the Nursing Directorate has decided to conduct interviews on 9 and 10 January 2020 (Thursday and Friday) for the already shortlisted candidates who did not manage to come for interviews on 2 and 3 January 2020,” said the ministry on its Facebook platform.
Last year, the nurses’ recruitment drive came under scrutiny when out of 24 nurses recruited at Mpilo, only four were locals and investigations revealed that other rural places such as St Annes in Brunapeg had zero.
Authorities claimed the drive was above board, having been done online but critics hit back saying it was flawed.
For the latest recruitment drive, the e-application portal in November was non-functional yet the initial deadline for registration was December 12, 2019 and the site was only fixed a week prior.
This forced some volunteers within Matabeleland to contact the health ministry and raise alarm.
“The portal started working a week before the deadline after we raised concerns, having engaged legislator Kucaca Phulu to engage the health minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo, in parliament about that problem,” said Michael Ndiweni, a social activist who working with other volunteers, Discent Bajila and Mlungisi Dube assisted 150 locals including others working in South Africa to apply.
“After advocacy, the portal started working and on December 11, the deadline meant for 12 was extended to 22. We then pushed for a number of applicants to apply.”
However, Ndiweni and other applicants soon observed that they had to wait a day for the registration payments ($ZWL10) to reflect on the online portal, as it was not automatically linked to Ecocash.
Another challenge was the issue of sex, as the online portal was set on default male.
“If one selected female, it would still classify as male. This issue was raised with the ministry and we also engaged the Zimbabwe Gender Commission. The issue was resolved days later. The ministry asked us to resend ID cards to manually correct 40 to 50 applications,” he noted.
The health ministry later extended the deadline from December 22 to 30, 2019 but failed to communicate, those who applied later saw the notification by chance.
Meanwhile, CITE witnessed hundreds of applicants who turned up for the interviews at UBH School of Nursing.
In interviews on their experiences, some complained that their interview notification messages were either sent to their online account or text message where some actually missed them.
“This posed a challenge to those without internet access. Some saw the interview messages on December 31 and planning to travel on a holiday was stressful,” said some applicants who had come from Harare.
Others who were interviewed could not converse in isiNdebele, yet they were supposedly to be posted at Mpilo Hospital.
The shortlisting said to be done by the computer was chaotic, claimed Ndiweni as he noted that some applicants from Binga or Victoria Falls were sent to Harare while those in the capital were sent down to Bulawayo.
“This brought about inconveniences as some applicants from outside Bulawayo didn’t know the city well enough to run around for their photocopying or certifying while language was also a barrier. This tells us the e-application and shortlisting is poorly planned, perhaps it still a trial and error,” he said.
The online portal is reportedly administered and managed by Chinhoyi University of Technology.
After receiving funds from well-wishers, Ndiweni said 14 local applicants were sent to Harare for the interviews, accommodated and fed.
“Again we suggested to the health ministry that they should have decentralised the process, as those close to Bulawayo be interviewed here and those close to Harare go there.”
He observed that communication by the ministry regarding the nursing recruitment was disappointing.
“The process bordered on incompetence, if it was not deliberate. As volunteers working to assist applicants we will submit a report with our recommendations. We decided to take it upon ourselves to mobilise young people with requisite skills to apply for the nursing positions and debunk perceptions that people from Matabeleland do not apply or are uneducated. By helping these young people, we sought to provide empirical evidence that locals also had the necessary qualifications,” Ndiweni said.
In its latest notice, the health ministry also advised: “Only those already shortlisted for interviews should come on Thursday and Friday. Candidates are allowed to choose the interview venue which is of easy access to them either Parirenyatwa or UBH.”