Bwaila Hospital staff gives ultimatum: Demand Lilongwe Health Management transferred

Clinicians at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe, the busiest maternal health facility in the country, have given the authorities up to Friday September 14 to transfer the entire District Health Management team or risk an industrial action.

The clinicians are alleging that the Lilongwe district health management team is negligent and oppressive and that the hospital needs “doctors with hands-on job, who are ready to cover clinicians on duty”.

In a petition dated August 30, 2012 presented to the Deputy Director of Clinical Services, the Bwaila clinicians allege that the DHO and District Medical Officers (DMOs) at the hospital do not cover clinicians on duty and that they mostly advise them over the phone to ‘just refer the case to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH)’ without reviewing the patients.

Mwansambo: The matter has not reached Capital Hill

The clinicians claim that the lackadaisical attitude of the district health management is not only putting KCH under pressure but that it is costing lives as well.

“If you want to prove this fact, ask KCH staff about the number of patients that have been referred to them without being reviewed by the doctors on cover,” reads the 3-page-petition signed by W. Mpezeni, L. Chikosi, P. Chimalizeni, G. Mtambo, M. Kadewa, S. Rajab, S. Lupwai and I. Chisi on behalf of the entire staff.

The petition further reads: “A fellow Clinical Officer (CO) Mr. Nyasulu has run away from Bwaila and has gone to KCH because he was forced to write an incident report for a maternal death which occurred because the one on cover did not come to see the patient.

“She (the one on cover) just instructed on the phone to refer the case to KCH where the patient died minutes or an hour later,” reads the petition sourced by mana.

The clinicians also allege that their bosses are intimidating and oppressive in the sense that they threaten to deal with any clinician who raise concerns and that the management hides invitations for trainings and/or education.

“A nurse, who in the morning report questioned why the doctors don’t review patients, was later called aside by the doctors and shouted at,” the petition reads.

The concerned Bwaila Hospital clinicians further accuse the management of forcing transfers on individual clinicians, raising disciplinary issues on individual clinicians with Medical Council and Nurses and Midwives Council as a way of dealing with clinicians for raising concerns.

The clinicians cite the posting of one, Mpezeni, to Phalombe apparently because of concerns raised in an earlier petition to the authorities.

“The views that were raised in our previous letter were the views of us all as a team and we all signed for it. Why then should you punish one person?

“Why posting COs out of Bwaila when we are insufficient already? …We request that you either reconsider that posting or post all of us out of Lilongwe DHO,” the petition goes on, stressing that they “need hands-on doctors who can perform and really cover clinicians on duty.”

The petition further claims that gynaecology patients who come to the hospital are sent back without medical attention.

“It was agreed that gyna clinic will be attended by the doctors every Thursday, but ever since Dr. Kaliti the consultant left, gyna patients are mostly sent back because there is no doctor to attend to them on clinic days,” explains the petition.

The clinicians warn that almost 90 percent of the health workers at Bwaila Hospital are ready to stage an act if the authorities maintain the hospital’s management staff but that they are avoiding any action considering the consequences it would bring at the country’s busiest maternity.

“On behalf of all cadres, we are requesting your office to replace the current District Health Management before things get worse, before patients suffer and before more lives are lost,” reads the petition, adding, “We hope you will handle this issue with urgency and accordingly. It is also our hope that we will get your response by end of next week 10/09/12.”

But Lilongwe DHO, Dr. Mwawi Mwale, could not be reached as both his ground line and mobile line went unanswered despite several attempts made from Thursday and Friday.

When contacted for a comment, Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, said the matter had not reached his office but he referred Mana to the Deputy Director of Clinical Services whom the PS said was well placed to handle it.

But both the Deputy Director of Clinical Services and his boss were reportedly out of the country when Mana called their offices.

Publicist for Health Ministry Henry Chimbali confirmed the development in an email but he said the matter had been resolved.

Said Chimbali: “We had  a discussion with the concerned group and we found that most of the issues can be improved, or changed without posting others away from the facility. We agreed to give ourselves time to sort out the concerns and we are hopeful we will reach a consensus soon.”

The Bwaila Hospital incident follows two other similar incidents earlier in the year at Nsanje District Hospital and Zomba Central Hospital where junior staff demanded transfer of some of their bosses over various reasons.

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