The country’s Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has dressed down Blantyre District Commissioner (DC), Bennet Nkasala, for demonstrating lack of good management and leadership practices in the way dealt with frontline health workers undertaking coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-related work at Kameza Isolation Centre.
Nkasala and the health workers have been at loggerheads over disagreements over the category of allowances the councils was supposed to pay the medics.
Apparently, the Blantyre DC ignored the directive from the Ministry of Health that the health workers be paid subsistence allowances and, instead, Nkasala settled for payment of meal allowances.
The row ended into the closure of the isolation centre as the two parties could not settle for a common ground. Eventually, the health workers went on a strike while seeking the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman on the matter.
In her determination, Chizuma wondered why it was only Blantyre where chaos ensued over subsistence allowances for the health workers when there is absolute calm in Lilongwe, Mzimba and Lilongwe.
“The other councils such as Mzimba and Lilongwe are in the same position where substantial amounts of allowances are still owed to their health workers, but the situation at their centres is calmer just because the respective District Commissioners are managing the situation very well by good communication and transparency in the manner that they are handling the situation. I believe this is what Blantyre District Council also needs,” reads part of the determination.
She goes on to say that from the totality of evidence and having compared how the situation is being handled in the other district councils and following the manner by which the public inquiry proceeded whereby the DC often lost his temper at the complainants (health workers) and reprimanded them for lodging the complaint itself and generally exhibited lack of expected decorum towards the hearing proceedings themselves, it is quite clear that the situation in Blantyre has been worsened by poor management and leadership.
Chizuma says on the issue of the kind of allowances, her observation, which she also put across to Dr. Charles Mwansambo was that the 20th April, 2020, circular Ref. No Admin 1/1 on Allowancs for Health Workers undertaking Covid-19 Related Work, was prone to sundry interpretation as it did not specifically state that the allowance to be paid is subsistence allowance.
“However, going by the clarification of Dr. Mwansambo and also the interpretation and application of the circular by the three (Lilongwe, Mzimba and Zomba District Councils) councils with Covid-19 isolation and treatment centres, the allowance mentioned there is subsistence allowance.
“This memo is to all hospital directors and District Commissioners. Accordingly, any suggestion by the DC that they frontline health workers are not entitled to subsistence allowance is unfair and unjustifiable,” rules Chizuma.
But the Ombudsman emphasizes that on the nonpayment of the allowances, she says she was convinced that the issue is largely outside the control of the respondents.
However, Chizuma has reprimanded the health workers for demonstrating lack of patriotism by rushing to go on strike at a time Malawi was registering a surge in new Covid-19 cases.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has ordered Blantyre City Council to come up with a written plan of payment of allowances for the health workers involved in the Covid-19-related work, for now and future.
She says the plan should be drawn upon full consultations with the complainants’ representatives and should be one that takes into consideration the other pressing demands the council has to attend to, but on that takes full cognizance of the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I shall expect to receive a copy of this communication by 30th September 2020,” Chizuma says.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :