According to the Health Service Board (HSB), over 4 000 nurses resigned from public institutions between January 2021 and November of this year with many headed for the United Kingdom.
There were 2 910 resignations in 2021 alone, with 1 561 leaving between January and November 2022. This includes the 1 772 registered general nurses (RGN) who left last year alone, as well as the 976 who have left this year.
However, some health care workers particularly nurse aides, are being targeted by predatory agencies based largely in the United Kingdom. They are made to pay up to £5 000 to the recruiting agencies in order to work in the United Kingdom.
A spokesperson of the British Embassy in Zimbabwe said “the embassy is concerned by reports alleging poor treatment of some Zimbabwean care workers at the hands of private recruitment agencies”.
The embassy urged prospective workers to read through their contracts before signing them.
“Zimbabwean workers using the services of a private recruitment agency to secure employment in the UK should check their contracts fully before signing. If a worker feels they are a victim of illegal activity, they should report to the relevant authorities”.
Local health institutions charging between US$300 and US$350 for three-month nurse-aid training courses.
The government is currently establishing migrant resource centers (MRCs) to provide Zimbabweans with critical information on issues relating to safe formal labor migration.
Professor Paul Mavima, Minister of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, stated that the resource centers will serve as information dissemination hubs for migrants’ rights.
“The facilities will also help by equipping returnees with the information upon their return, among many other essential services about migrants.”
A UK-based nurse aide described how she was duped by a recruiting agency that assisted her in getting a job in England.
When she applied for the job, she was promised at least £12,50 per hour, but she only received £8, as the difference was paid by a recruiting agency (name supplied) that facilitated her work permit and visa. This arrangement was not disclosed to her in advance. She had only paid a nearly £5000 recruitment fee.
“These middlemen are mostly Zimbabweans living in the UK. They don’t explain in full when applying through them how much they will deduct from your salary. I no longer have much of an option but to work until the five-year contract expires”.
Some private agencies, victims say, even withhold passports and other critical documents until payment is made.
Care workers’ visas are linked to their employers, which make them reluctant to report such cases for fear of being deported.Earlier this year, Olinda Chapel had her sponsorship licence for her recruitment agency Gain Health Private Limited revoked.
The revocation of Chapel’s licence left hundreds of Zimbabweans who came to work at care homes and agents stranded as their visas are attached to the revoked licences.
This group is part of thousands of migrant workers who came after a government recruitment drive to fill more than 100 000 vacancies in social care.