Rampant corruption in public health facilities can be dealt with if the National Policy launched last year is fully implemented, rights and health activists have said.
For many years, the health sector in the country has been guided by multiple, isolated sub-sectoral policy frameworks and strategic plans.
The Ministry of Health and Population combined these to come up with the National Health Policy, but implementing it is proving hard, according to the activists.
But ministry’s spokesperson Joshua Malango said in an interview the ministry was implementing the policy, although not everything can be done at once.
Health and Rights Education Programme executive director Maziko Matemba said the National Health Policy- launched in March 2018- is a beautiful document, but was taking time to be fully implemented.
“We have had these complaints about drug pilferage, medical personnel demanding bribes for services offered and sexual abuse of women at the hands of medical officers. If this policy is implemented; it can help deal with these issues.
“The policy calls for autonomous of public health facilities, starting with central hospitals. If implemented, our central hospitals can become independent and have their own boards to run the institutions,” he said.
The activist said it would be easier for these boards to deal with problems in public health facilities rather than the ministry taking up all disciplinary matters as is the case now.
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe said in an interview that the country started well with decentralisation through the Local Government Act (1998).
He observed that National Health Policy which consolidated a number of Acts and policies, including the Local Government Act, is not being fully implemented.
Jobe also admitted the policy is meant to guide the health sector on planning.
He said district hospitals and health centres are also expected to become autonomous guided by the decentralisation policy which was incorporated in the National Health Policy.
“But what we have been advocating for is that government should be allocating funding to these health facilities directly other than the district councils,” Jobe said.
He also urged government to deal with the vacancy rate in the health sector, currently at 50 percent.
According to the National Health Policy, the Local Government Act (1998) consolidates the law regarding local government.
“It provides for health service delivery to be decentralised to district and city councils and empowers communities to be responsible for their own health and healthcare services.
“It [the Act] also mandates the Ministry of Health and Population to be responsible for health-related policies, training and supervision,” it reads.
Matemba said government continues to defy several policies and declarations, including the Abuja Declaration which calls upon signatories to make sure they allocate 15 percent of their national budget to the health sector.
“We are still on the downturn as a country, with the total allocation to the health sector at nine percent, below the set 15 percent.
“The health sector is facing serious challenges because we fail to abide by what we commit ourselves to. Many health facilities don’t have enough beds, they fail to paint their rooms and even replace bulbs,” he complained.
Matemba said if it were not for well-wishers that come in with different support, the situation could have been worse.
He implored the authorties to implement the National Health Policy.