Hospital staff strike spreads to Thyolo, Neno and Zomba

Neno district junior health workers who started their strike on Monday have vowed to continue with their sit in until the Ministry of Health (MoH) officials attend to their grievances.

The strike which intends to force the Partners in Health (PIH) a sub contractor to Clinton Hunter Foundation Development Initiative to continue paying the government staff workers subsistence allowances has started paralyzing some of health services at the hospital.

“The workers have been promised by ministry headquarters officials many times that they will come but instead it is the Zone officials who came here to discuss with us and each time we discuss they fail to provide us with lasting solutions,” said the source.

Nurses facing tough times

In trying to solve this problem the District Commissioner, Hamisi Twabi pleaded with the workers to keep on working while waiting the ministry officials to come and finally sorting up the issue.

“I talked to ministry officials and they promised me that they will come here before Wednesday, therefore, for the mean time I am asking you to continue with your work,” said Twabi.

However, the striking junior health workers refused to bulge in to the DC’s request instead he asked him [DC] to order the PIH workers to vacate the hospitals premises for them to start working until the issue sorted out.

But the DC said the district council and the District hospital management have no authority to chase away PIH workers at the district hospital.

“At district level we do not have that mandate to terminate any bilateral relationship which PIH signed with government of Malawi but what we can do now is for us to work with them until the responsible personnel sort out this issue for good,” said Twabi.

Currently both Districts Medical Officer Fredick Chihaye and entire top district health officials are still persuading PIH officials to resume work while matters are being addressed

Since its inception in Neno 2007, PIH has been giving out subsistence allowances to all health workers until last year when its annual budget allocation was cut by 25 percent due to global economic crisis.

As a result PIH has started scaling down some of its services in the district like reducing the number of employees; stop providing free kitchen meals to both hospital staff and patients and giving out subsistence allowances to all government health workers.

Neno district hospital has more than 400 workers who are serving twelve health centres and a newly built 50 bed space hospital which was built by PIH.

Meanwhile, health workers at Thyolo hospital are also on strike demanding the removal of District Health Officer  Dr Andrew Likaka, accusing him of ill-treating the staff

The workers also alleged failure to pay them locum allowances, non-functioning backup generators at the hospital due to the management’s failure to buy fuel and late payment of their salaries are some of their concerns

The striking employees told Nyasa Times that they wrote the ministry in Lilongwe over the matter but that the hospital administrators started “witchunting” the protesting staff.

The development comes after health workers at Zomba Central Hospital (ZCH) on Monday downed their tools to force the Ministry of Health to remove four members of the hospital’s management team.

The workers want hospital director Dr Mathias Joshua, chief nursing officer a Mrs Nyirenda, chief hospital administrator Matthew Mataka and human resource officer Peter Nangwale to be removed.

Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, who is also Minister of Health, met the staff on June 23,

Zomba hospital is the main referral centre for the Eastern Region covering Zomba, Machinga, Mangochi and Balaka district

Workers at Balaka District Hospital also downed their tool demanding government to redeploy four top management officers accused of financial mismanagement and ill-treatment.

The employees want the Ministry of Health headquarters to transfer the District Health Officer, Owen Chikwaza, District Medical Officer, Frank Linzie, District Nursing Officer Beta Zuza and the Hospital Administrator.

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