Complaints against health workers’ unprofessional conduct and incompetence have increased by 59 percent in a year, sparking calls for authorities to find ways to arrest the upsurge, Nation on Sunday has established.
According to the Medical Council of Malawi (MCM), which regulates health operations, last year it registered 35 complaints from the public against 22 complaints received in 2019.
MCM acting registrar Richard Ndovie said the allegations bordered on negligence and unprofessional conduct.
“Seventeen complaints are on allegations of medical negligence related to practice; 16 on allegations of unprofessional conduct and two on allegations of poisoning of persons.
“Common issues are maternity complaints, asking money from patients for their free services and issues of fake medical reports,” he said.
Ndovie said other complaints emanated from surgical and orthopaedic outcomes.
“The other cases are about poor management of fractures leading to complications in rural areas,” he said.
Ndovie disclosed that the Covid-19 pandemic has also had a fair share of complaints.
“On Covid-19, there are 12 complaints, mainly on fake medical reports; infringement of patients’ rights by releasing results on social media; insurance not covering Covid-19 patients; misdiagnosis of other conditions with Covid-19 and denying treatment to patients with Covid-19-related symptoms,” he explained.
Ndovie said following this development, the council will hold disciplinary hearings next month.
Meanwhile, health rights activist Maziko Matemba has attributed the increase in number of complaints to the public being more knowledgeable about grievance reporting.
“Partly, it could be that people now know that the Medical Council [of Malawi] is the right institution to report their complaints. Previously, we know they used to take such issues to the Ombudsman and other agencies,” he said.
But he attributed the increase in cases to lack of mentorship among new medical personnel recruited in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They start with minimum supervision because experienced officers are overwhelmed with work,” said Matemba.
The health activist, who is executive director for Health and Rights Education Programme, has urged government to invest in mentorship of newly employed medical workers to minimise misconducts.
He commended MCM for punishing medical workers that were found guilty of misconduct.
However, Matemba observed that MCM has not been doing much to enforce punishments it imposed on some clinicians.
“We have seen some medical workers being sanctioned and being suspended from practising. The challenge which is there is that there’s no monitoring. In the end, we see some banned medical officers relocating and opening clinics in other areas,” he said.
But according to MCM, it has in the past five years dealt with 80 complaints “largely on medical negligence and unprofessional conduct; 10 on sexual misconduct and cases on clinics using unregistered persons”.
Within those years, the council says it has closed 42 illegal clinics in rural areas of Mangochi, Lilongwe, Dedza and Mzimba.
But the Medical Association of Malawi, a body for health workers, has said it was concerned with the rise in complaints linked to its members.
“What we need are compliments and not complaints. We cannot rule out complaints, but they shouldn’t be many,” said the association’s president Dr Grace Chiudzu, in an interview on Friday.
She disclosed that they are planning to roll out “continuous professional development” programmes nationwide to help health workers improve their performances.
“Through this initiative, we will be providing the health workers with scientific information. Medicine changes every day. This is why such meetings are important and could minimise the professional misconducts,” Chiudzu added.