THE government is reportedly considering terminating monthly payments for student nurses by June as a measure to cut down on the wage bill, which is said to be unsustainable.
The planned move comes as training institutions have trimmed intakes, since the Health and Child Welfare ministry cannot afford to absorb nurses after studies.
Source said the suggestion was raised in June last year during tours by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care led by Bulawayo Member of Parliament, Ruth Labode.
The committee was assessing the state of affairs at public health institutions following concerns over poor health service delivery.
“There was a proposal that was thrown around during the visit to Bulawayo by the health portfolio committee that the government should stop paying trainee nurses,” source said.
“The reasoning was that the government was battling to raise salaries for people employed on a full time basis and on training.
“So it was suggested to cut payments by June as part of austerity measures.”
Southern Eye heard the issue was not fully discussed as legislators felt wider consultations were needed since the proposals had “political impact”.
“We are a few years before presidential elections and implementing it now is not a wise political move,” a source said.
“There is an issue of creating five million jobs and if payment is stopped that will discourage people applying hence impacting employment.
“People on training are regarded as employed.”
Training institutions on average admit about 60 students per intake twice a year, but that has been trimmed to 30 for a single intake.
The government’s 10 provincial and five central hospitals are mandated to train nurses.
Few private hospitals are unable to absorb all newly-trained nurses, while the civil service has imposed a recruitment freeze.
Labode yesterday said she could not recall the issue ever being mentioned.
“I don’t recall the issue being raised during the committee meetings,” she said.
“No, it was not at all.
“In fact, we were not interested in the health national budget and salaries, but on infrastructure and improving staff levels.
“All that was discussed was captured in the report I presented to the permanent secretary recently.
“Again the issue was never raised.”
Officials from the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, the sole professional association for nurses, could not be reached for comment.