Foreign doctors working for both the State and private practices face arrest for violating their work permit conditions, Namibian Association of Medical Aid Funds Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Tjiuoro, has said.
Tjiuoro said it is illegal for foreign doctors to do work that is not specified on their work permits.
He said work permits are issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration under specific strict conditions, which do not allow a person to defer from them.
“If it says you work for A and you work for B, then you are a locum tenens,” Tjiuoro said.
Locum tenens physicians fill in for other physicians on a temporary basis for a range of a few days up to six months or more and this usually happens when a healthcare employer faces temporary staffing shortages due to vacancies or illness.
Other medical establishments hire locum tenens physicians and other part-time clinicians to maintain patient care quality.
Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration Public Relations Officer, Salome Kambala, also said that it is illegal for foreign doctors to work for both the State and private practices.
She said one of the requirements from home affairs when a person is applying for a work permit is that there should be a letter from the employer confirming that they are offering a job to that individual.
She said there is no way a person can present two letters from two different employers.
“You cannot legally change work without notifying home affairs. You have to relinquish your previous employment and change the conditions of your visa stamped in your passport before you can work somewhere else,” she said.
Health and Social Services Minister, Bernard Haufiku, told the Windhoek Observer that the issue of locum tenens physicians has been under discussion for a very long time.
He said, as a ministry, their hands are tied at the moment until such a time the law has been changed.
“We have been fighting to get the Health Professions Bill to be transformed into a law in order to curb such practices. As a law, it will give us the power to take action. We know the problem and we also know the solution,” he said.
Five Bills which regulate health professionals were last introduced in the National Assembly by the then Health Minister, Dr Libertina Amathila, in 2004.
She moved a motion for the repeal of existing legislation from 1995, which provided for the establishment of the Council for Health and Social Service.
Motivating the Bills, Amathila said current Acts regulating the various professions were difficult to administer.
The proposed new laws will replace those dating back to 1993 which govern the education, training and registration of medical professionals as well as matters related to unregistered people and disciplinary issues.