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SOME of the pharmacists who had been sent home because there were no vacancies at state hospitals will now be employed.

The health ministry's acting permanent secretary, Petronella Masabane, announced yesterday that they would employ 18 pharmacists.

The Namibian reported last week that the health ministry had only one vacant position for more than 80 pharmacists countrywide. The ministry had terminated the contracts of 18 pharmacist interns who were doing their internship at the Windhoek Central Hospital.

Masabane said the positions were created through a compensatory process, "as directed by the Office of the Prime Minister, to control the government's wage bill".

She added that the vacant positions on the approved staff establishment, "especially administrative positions", have been abolished to create positions for pharmacists, and that funding for the recently created positions will be sourced from last year's budgetary allocation for the recruitment of staff.

Masabane added that pharmacists who choose to work for the ministry will assume duty as from 1 March 2018, and will be deployed to health facilities, "according to ministerial needs and not individual preferences".

Last week, health minister Bernard Haufiku said the ministry had a need for pharmacists and other health professionals, but they were not allowed to recruit by the current "old ministerial structure".

He said the ministry had proposed a new ministerial structure that was waiting to be approved by the Office of the Prime Minister. The Namibian, however, reported that there was confusion over who was handling Haufiku's proposed structure, which includes the health professions bill.

The proposed structure is expected to tighten controls over the health profession, and force doctors to work for government before they can work elsewhere in Namibia.

It will also give government more control over the registration and licensing of health professionals, regulate health education institutions, and pharmacists.

Haufiku's proposed legislation will also force medical professionals to first work in the public sector for a set period before being licensed to go into private practice.