July 24, 2021

After saving lives on the Ethiopian Covid-19 frontline, some health workers left jobless

City: Addis AbabaHealth

Ethiopia's Ministry of Health last year called on unemployed medical school graduates to join the fight against the Covid-19. what was the agreement?

Avatar: Nigist Berta
By Nigist Berta

Nigist is a senior reporter and content creator at Addis Zeybe, who is experienced in journalism and who explores her passion for storytelling.

After saving lives on the Ethiopian Covid-19 frontline, some health workers left jobless

Ethiopia's Ministry of Health (MoH) last year called on unemployed medical school graduates and other volunteers to join the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the country braced itself for a surge in patients.

Daniel Mitiku, 29 with a degree in Pharmacy and General Medicine but was a job seeker, didn't waste time responding to the national call - deciding to join the frontline health ranks to fight the pandemic.

Along with other medical professionals, Daniel was assigned to one of the COVID-19 treatment centers in Addis Ababa. This gave him a better opportunity to put his passion into practice and, at the same time, prevent his fellow countrymen and women from severe complications caused by the virus.

"It was scary, and similarly full of lessons which help to learn a lot of things in my profession," Daniel told Addis Zeybe.

Last month, the Ministry of Health announced the termination of frontline health professionals, which left Daniel and other medical professionals jobless.

The government has appealed for a contract to sign to health professionals, promising them a chance to find permanent employment in the future. However, the contract has terminated after June 30, and the health professionals have filed various complaints on this and other issues to the government.

“When the COVID-19 contracts are terminated, we will be able to return to being jobless. Of course, even before COVID-19, I have never stopped applying for various jobs. Accordingly, the job centers will call us for exams. But in the meantime while we see our results they ridiculously disqualify us by asking for skills which are not related to our profession such as driving license and so on,” said Daniel.

Dr. Girma Sintayehu, a resident of Bahir Dar, who had been working on COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, said that multiple  health professionals at Bahir Dar had complained to the Amhara Regional Health Bureau about the Covid_19 contract termination, saying: “What is our fate?”An additional issue they raised was that  “employment of professionals on state-based language standards should be stopped.”

“Medical school students are known to be taught in international languages, but as long as we study English, it is assumed that we can go and treat anywhere, not only in Ethiopia but also in Africa and beyond.”.

Dr. Girma recalled that months ago, the Ministry of Health and the regional health bureaus had extended their contracts for three months in a complaint against Covid_19's contract termination which doesn’t help for the future.

 “such kinds of solutions are now being acted but they don’t guarantee the future,”  he said

Ethiopia is one of the countries in the world with the lowest doctor and patient ratio, which has increased in recent years medical professionals have become increasingly unemployed.

To address this challenge, the government is working to expand medical schools, but many young people are still struggling to find work after graduation. 

"Why doesn't the health bureau give them a permanent solution?" Addis Zeybe asked the Ministry of Health.  Aseged Samuel, Director of Human Resource Development, replied: "Even though there are not enough health professionals at the moment, we are still struggling to get the jobs to the needs due to the lack of budget. However, to come up with a solution we have started working with the Job Creation Commission.". 

“The solutions include making a group of health professionals able to work together, such as renting a building and providing a variety of medical services for them to give their services and providing them the facility to give home-based care and so on. We are working hard on these.

We also asked Asegid about the complaints on the language standards in the job vacancies issued by the medical centers in different regions of the country: “Federal Ministry of Health has no knowledge about the issues. If there are any, it will be seen with the parties involved. But according to our bureau, there is a platform for the Federal Ministry of Health to work with regional health bureaus so that any health professional can work in all parts of the country”.