Frontline healthcare workers at Kameza Isolation Centre in Blantyre yesterday withdrew their services following delays in payment of their allowance arrears accumulated from April this year.
In an interview yesterday, a representative of the healthcare workers Kennedy Lowa said Blantyre City Council (BCC) last Friday only paid them a day’s allowance after they had marched to the Civic Offices on Thursday to demand their full payment.
He said they would only return to work at the facility once they receive their full arrears.
Said Lowa: “Meanwhile, we have proceeded with a stay-away from today [yesterday]. People were only given allowances for one day by the council.”
Asked who was looking after the Covid-19 patients at the facility, Lowa said there were five patients as of yesterday who were left in the care of a matron.
When contacted yesterday, BCC spokesperson Anthony Kasunda referred the matter to Blantyre District Health Office (DHO).
Efforts to speak to Blantyre DHO director of health and social services Dr. Gift Kawalazira proved futile as he could not pick up our phone calls on numerous attempts while the DHOs spokesperson Chrissy Banda said she was at a funeral.
But earlier, Kawalazira acknowledged that the DHO owed the healthcare workers allowance arrears.
He said the DHO had received K45 million from the Ministry of Health, out of which 48 percent was used in paying for allowance arrears while 52 percent was used in procurement of materials and fuel for field visits.
Last Thursday, the healthcare workers marched to the council, demanding that they receive K48 million in allowance arrears from a K50 million disbursement given to the council.
But Kasunda said the council was given the money as part of its activities in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
He said since Kameza Isolation Centre is within Blantyre City, the council thought it was proper to spare some resources and pay the healthcare workers a portion of the allocation.
Dodma spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula also told The Nation that the K50 million was disbursed to BCC based on the budget submitted by the council for its Covid-19 response.