MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Professor Lackson Kasonka says the recruitment of 11,200 health workers has commenced, but that it has started from the drawing board to ensure that it is done flawlessly and methodically.

And Dr Kasonka says the recruitment exercise will not prioritise any group.

Meanwhile, Dr Kasonka says the Ministry of Health will use the upcoming N’cwala ceremony to upscale its vaccination efforts.

During a media briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the country, Monday, Dr Kasonka said government wanted to ensure that the recruitment exercise was systematic so that there were no accusations of nepotism and corruption.

“The recruitment exercise has started but has started from the drawing board to ensure that this activity or exercise is done flawlessly, it is done correctly, it is done methodically and systematically. The idea is to ensure that it is methodical and it is systematic so that there is no accusation of nepotism, corruption and all those vices that have previously been associated with recruitments. So it may sound like it is taking a bit of time purely because the exercise has to be done very correctly,” he said.

And Dr Kasonka said the exercise would not prioritise any group.

“Recruitment will not only prioritise only one group out of the 11, 200. A sitting down has been made to look through the different categories of health care workers to try to understand how many are required and where across the entire country. You do not have to live in Kalomo and have to come to Lusaka for recruitment, no. We have always said decentralize the activities so that even those people that are far from Lusaka, remember Zambia is not Lusaka alone, those people that are far from here have got an opportunity to get recruited in the same measure as someone that is sitting here in Lusaka. So you can see that all that requires a lot of good planning, think through, systematic and methodical thinking so that when it happens, it happens without complaint. So I find it misplaced for anyone, any grouping to take to the streets and start demonstrating because they are showing that they are more entitled to this government’s cake, if you like, than others,” he said.

When asked about the planned protest by some unemployed doctors against the recruitment exercise, Dr Kasonka said no group had the ultimate right to dictate as to when and how they should be recruited.

“I regretted not having seen that posting but I want to reiterate that there is a lot of anxiety about recruitment and that is very justified because lots of graduates require to be employed. That is what this new dawn government is there for. The promise is to create employment not only for doctors and nurses but for all youths and adults that have got the requisite qualification and they feel that they can join the employment sector and start to make a contribution towards the growth of the economy. So I was rather taken aback to hear that there was going to be a demonstration by one group of doctors and again I want to reiterate that the 11, 200 target for recruitment is not for doctors alone, it is not for nurses alone, it is for health care workers. Remember that there are even drivers among health workers who have to drive the ambulance. Those are special drivers; they are also considered health workers. So none of these groups has the ultimate right to dictate as to when and how they should be recruited,” he said.

Dr Kasonka said the Ministry of Health would use the upcoming N’cwala ceremony to upscale its vaccination efforts.

“I am not in the organising committee of the N’cwala [ceremony] to be able to confirm but I can announce and inform [the nation] that the N’cwala organising committee applied for an authority or clearance to get that big congregate event to happen this year and we as Ministry of Health has no objection. So very likely, the N’cwala ceremony is taking place this year on the 26 of February and this is after two years since the last edition of the ceremony was held on account of COVID. The motivation is not to close down this economy, it is not to close down the events. We would like our lives to return to normal because we know that COVID is going to be around for a very long time but we must manage the COVID. We must get to a point where we should live our normal lives with the COVID around. So the N’cwala ceremony, we thought it’s now unfair to continue to postpone a very important event like the N’cwala ceremony so that’s how as health authorities we said it should go ahead,” said Dr Kasonka.

“But most importantly if the ceremony has to go ahead, we should see that we don’t get people to the N’cwala and come out there with new infections. So we are working as the Ministry of Health, the department of health promotion and social determinants under the leadership of Dr Kabalo, we are working with the organising committee, we are working to ensure that they promote not only the five golden rules but most of all they promote the need for vaccination for anyone that is going to attend that important ceremony. We look at that as an opportunity for us to upscale vaccination efforts that we have embarked upon.”

Meanwhile, Dr Kasonka announced that the country had in the last 24 hours recorded three COVID-19 associated deaths and 111 new cases out of 1,979 tests conducted.

He said all the three deaths were in unvaccinated adults aged between 20 and 80 years of age.