Kameza Isolation Centre healthcare workers yesterday stormed Blantyre City Council offices demanding K48 million in risk allowance arrears dating back to April this year.
In a petition addressed to the council’s chief executive officer Alfred Chanza, they state that the council received K50 million from the Ministry of Health (MoH) for coronavirus (Covid-19) allowance arrears for the frontline health workers.
But the council’s public relations manager Anthony Kasunda has disputed the claim, saying the K50 million allocation the council received was not for the healthcare workers allowances only.
The health workers petition reads in part: “On July 1 2020, we received information from the Ministry of Health that your office received money amounting to K50 million for Covid-19, which was supposed to be sent to the Blantyre District Health Office [DHO].
“We were informed you were sending K10 million to the DHO instead of the K50 million that was sent to your office. We are demanding arrears in excess of K48 million, failing which we will hand over the isolation facility to your office tomorrow [today].”
A representative of the healthcare workers Philip Chitule, in an interview, said they were informed by MoH officials that following a discussion that also involved Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development officials, they agreed that the money be used to settle the arrears as well.
He said: “We were informed about it and we are wondering why the money is being withheld from us..”
Chitule said depending on grade, the healthcare workers are each owed allowances ranging from K100 000 to K1.5 million.
But Kasunda in a written response yesterday said the council did not recruit the health workers and that the DHO was not within the council’s mandate.
He said: “However, since the Kameza isolation centre is in the city, the council has agreed to spare some resources for allowances of those people who worked at that particular centre. The K50 million which the council received is for its Covid-19 interventions in the city.”
When contacted, Blantyre DHO director of health and social services Dr. Gift Kawalazira declined to comment, saying the the council and Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) were better placed to speak on the matter.
On his part, MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango said the money was from Dodma in liaison with Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
In a separate interview, Dodma spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula said the K50 million was disbursed to the council in May this year based on a Covid-19 response budget submitted to the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs.
Two weeks ago, the frontline healthcare workers staged a sit-in at the isolation centre demanding allowances, but MoH and DHO officials intervened, promising to provide the arrears in two weeks.
At the time, Kawalazira acknowledged that there were some frontline healthcare workers who were owed the arrears.
The almost 96 frontline healthcare workers at the isolation centre include nurses, health surveillance assistants, laboratory technicians, doctors and pharmacists.