Health services temporarily came to a halt Monday when Malawian nurses and midwives across the country marched to present a petition to President Joyce Banda demanding her immediate action on their longstanding grievances.
The nurses and midwives technicians have since given the president a 48-hour ultimatum (from the time of receiving the petition) to act or else they would withdraw their services.
The disgruntled health workers are pressing President Banda to give a fresh directive that nurses and midwife technicians must be upgraded to registered nurses at diploma level.
President Banda reportedly already gave a nod in February 2013 to a new programme for nurses and midwives technicians to upgrade to registered nurses at diploma level following requests from the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi (NONM) and upon consultations with stakeholders.
However, despite her recommendation the supreme body, Nurses and Midwives Council, has reportedly blocked the process for some not-so-properly explained reasons.
The petition, co-signed by the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (NONM) President, Jonathan Abraham Gama and the Executive Director, Harriet Kapyepye was presented to the President through district commissioners in Blantyre and Lilongwe.
In Lilongwe the petition was presented after nurses matched peacefully from Kamuzu Central Hospital
through Paul Kagame Highway.
The nurses have also pressed for the complete dissolution of the entire board and registrar of the Nurses
and Midwives Council of Malawi (NMCM) as they argue that their interests are not being fully represented by the council.
Led by NONM President Jonathan Gama and Kapyepye, the nurses, clad in their uniforms carried placards
which read, ‘remove NMCM Registrar Martha Mondiwa now’ and ‘do not compromise with politicians, quality nursing care is not a priviledge but a right to all,’ among others.
Reading the petition before it was delivered to Lilongwe DC Felix Mkandawire, Gama said from the very onset, it became clear that some elements within the health sector were opposing the programme for unjustifiable reasons and that one of such elements is the council itself.
“What they are doing is fooling the nation because when we were at Sanjika with the President they did agree that upgrading is possible, they were part of the group which came up with the document to be signed by the President. They were also part of the group which worked on modalities that come September, this programme should be off the ground and now they are backing off,” Gama said.
Gama said as NONM they have made several efforts to ensure that the programme gets off the ground including sourcing funds which they gave to the council after it had indicated that it did not have sufficient finances to implement the programme.
On their call to have the Nurses council dissolved, Gama described what the council is doing as cheating and betrayal not only to nurses but the nation as a whole saying it has gone back on its initial commitment as per the announcement the council made in October that they will not implement the programme.
In the commercial capital, the nurse presented the petition through the Blantyre District Commissioner, Anastazio Chibwana.
In part the petition reads: “Following the directive that was done with wide consultations, a task force was put in place to look into modalities of the implementation of the programme.
“The taskforce was chaired by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and comprised members from different stakeholders including NONM, Nurses and Midwives Council, the Ministry of Health, training institutions, among others.”
It states that the taskforce came up with a report which, among others, recommended that the programme could be implemented through a one-year training programme for the eligible nurses.
The petition also reminds government that most training institutions already indicated they were ready to implement the programme.
“However, despite your approval of the report, the council has not implemented the recommendations. To the contrary the council did in October summon nurse/midwife technicians across the country to a meeting at Kamuzu College of Nursing where it told them it was not prepared to implement the programme,” reads the petition.
The development angered the nurses who threatened to go on strike forthwith nut NONM came in to calm the situation and urged them to give dialogue a chance first.
And when NONM followed up the issue, the council changed the explanation and indicated that the problem was funding to develop a syllabus and curriculum.
However, after the syllabus and curriculum was developed, the council further made a communiqué indicating that a one-year programme as recommended in the taskforce’s report was not viable.
NONM says in the petition it is now surprised with the manner in which things are unfolding after certain training institutions such as Malawi College of Health Science (MCHS) which had earlier indicated they would implement the programme are also backing off claiming they are not ready to implement.
“We have further noted with great concern that other stakeholders in the exercise such as the Directorate of Nursing Services in the Ministry of Health and the Principal Secretary for Health seem to be in full support of the council’s position,” it reads.
Further, NONM decries the conduct of the current Principal Secretary for Health in the use of intimidating language against its members in the meetings when called to discuss the issue.
“Nurses across the country, have great anticipation of the programme. However, with the position taken by the council, there is real bitterness amongst nurses and most of them are agitating for a strike to compel the council implement the programme,” reads the petition.
The petition finally requests President Banda to intervene through a directive to the council to implement the programme starting January 2014 and also direct in writing the training institutions to support implementation of the programme starting January 2014 because they already indicated to the concerned people, public and stakeholders that they were ready to enroll the first intake in October 2013.
The petition also wants President Banda to direct in writing the dissolution of the entire council Board and the Registrar for failing their duties.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :