The centre can no longer hold. Economic constraints have forced the Ministry of Health (MoH) to abandon doctors, pharmacists and physiotherapists who have recently completed their training at the College of Medicine (CoM).
Two months after finishing their training, about 51 junior doctors, 34 pharmacists and physiotherapists who got their results in July 2015 are still stuck in their homes because government has no funds to deploy them for internship.
Technically, the development means the health workers cannot practice medicine in the country because they do not have a licence which is only given to them by the Medical Council of Malawi (MCM) at the end of their 18-month internship.
This turn of events comes after government also withdrew the redeployment list and offer letters of employment to newly recruited nurse midwives, technicians and nursing officers due to lack of funds.
Coordinator of the team, Mphatso Phiri, said in an interview yesterday they have been following up with MoH without getting any convincing explanation.
He said: “There has been no progress, we even followed up with the Office of the President and Cabinet [OPC] after hearing that our names had been sent there for clearance, but still there is nothing coming forward.”
Ordinarily, they are supposed to be deployed within the first two months after the release of their results and by now they should have already been in respective district hospitals undergoing the internship.
Said Phiri: “We are told government has not yet secured funding to enable us to take up our positions in the health facilities and currently it is looking for other sources of funds to ensure that we are deployed.
“We already registered with the Medical Council of Malawi and our names were already sent to the ministry for approval and then release of the deployment letters.”
This is the first group of doctors to face such a scenario in which, after finishing training, government has failed to deploy them for internship.
Some of the doctors have since indicated they may be forced to apply to have their internship abroad, particularly in Lesotho and Swaziland, instead of just staying.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya yesterday referred the matter to MoH which, he said, was responsible for the doctors as per their cash flow.
However, MoH spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said he was “tied with the head-counting of civil servants.”
Malawi already has the highest doctor-to-patient ratio which currently stands at one doctor to about 60 000 patients.
Commenting on the issue, health rights activist Martha Kwataine said it was unfortunate that the country was sliding backwards when it sweats to get funding to train doctors.
She said: “If they don’t go through that internship they don’t qualify to be called doctors, they can’t even register to practice with the Medical Council of Malawi, which is bad and violates their right to employment and this is demotivation and in the end we may lose all our doctors to outside the country.”