The Human Resources for Health (HRH) Coalition has given the Ministry of Health up to March 1 2021 to recruit additional healthcare workers to strengthen the health sector for the fight the Covid-19 upsurge.
In a letter addressed to Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda dated January 12 2021, co-signed by HRH chairperson Shouts Simeza, who is also National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (Nonm) president, and vice-chairperson Grace Chiudzu, the coalition states that the resurgence of Covid-19, which is spreading faster and killing many Malawians, has increased pressure on the country’s “already crippled health system”.
Reads the letter in part: “In our thinking, as we support efforts of the ministry, it would have been an automatic consideration this time to recruit additional workforce to beef up and strengthen the current lean and failing healthcare workforce, if we are to continue with this battle against the beast at hand.
“This does not even require us to engage each other again, but only to encourage you that this be done urgently, that at least by March 1 2021, the new team should be on the ground.”
The coalition further observes that the rising numbers of Covid-19 positive cases among healthcare workers, estimated to be 754 as of Tuesday, has not only stimulated anxiety, fear and distress among them, but also drained human resources out of the system as they are in quarantine.
HRH says adding healthcare workers to the workforce should not be a challenge for government as “Malawi already has qualified and licensed human resources for health in all cadres that are idle and willing to join the system”.
The body also wants the ministry to ensure availability of adequate and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), provision of transport and a tax-free risk allowance for healthcare workers on duty as well as promotion of the healthcare personnel.
In an interview yesterday, Simeza said besides writing the ministry, HRH has also written central hospitals, district commissioners and private health institutions to ensure that healthcare workers are protected from the deadly pandemic.
On recruitment of the additional health personnel, Simeza suggested that government should recruit all qualified and licenced personnel that are not employed.
He said: “If 700 health workers are infected, what it means is nearly half of the health workforce should go out because of the contact. So, we are in a crisis that needs to be dealt with with urgency.”
Simeza said if government does not meet their demand, the healthcare workers will take undisclosed action.
When contacted, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 also recommended the recruitment of health workers and the ministry will work with the Local Government Service Commission in the exercise.
Said Malango: “Plans are already there to recruit health workers in all cadres to beef up the Covid-19 fight.”
Commenting on HRH’s demand, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe said the coalition has a valid concern given the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.