Malawi president Joyce Banda has given two nurses’ organisations six months to resolve their dispute over whether enrolled nurses should be upgraded to registered nurses.
The National Organisation for Nurses and Midwives (NONM), which is a union for nurses, wants enrolled nurses to be at par with registered nurses.
On the other hand, the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi, which regulates the profession, opposes the proposal, arguing that enrolled nurses can only attain the higher status by acquiring the required qualifications.
Enrolled nurses hold a maximum of a diploma in nursing whereas registered nurses have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
The latest meeting that discussed the matter, which took place at Kamuzu Palace in the capital, Lilongwe on March 4 2013, ended with tempers high on both sides, forcing the President to give the two camps six months to resolve the matter.
Malawi’s Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara confirmed meetings between the President and the nurses over the dispute.
But Hara said she did not have details of the March 4 meeting. She referred Nation on Sunday to Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali.
Chimbali said the ministry has not taken a position on the matter. He said the ministry is waiting for the two camps to resolve the issue.
“This may be handled by the Nurses Council which regulates the operations and conduct of nurses in Malawi. As a ministry, we are just waiting for their action and communication on this matter and then we will explain our position on how it may or may not affect our healthcare system,” said Chimbali.
He confirmed that the President has set up a task force to deal with the dispute.
Presidential adviser on Safe Motherhood Dorothy Ngoma, who attended the March 4 meeting as a member of NONM, backed enrolled nurses, saying they need to be turned into registered nurses because they are in majority and do most of the work.
“What nurses are saying is that the majority who provide services here are enrolled nurses [nurse technicians] who are about 6 000 out of the total 8 000 nurses in the country. The union says that is abuse of labour when it comes to doing work. We are abusing this cadre. They work and supervise themselves. They work a lot, but the package is low.
“The leadership in nursing wants them to be enslaved; hence, the nurses brought the matter to the President. The nursing leadership has been abusive. The Nurses Council is against the idea and they continued opposing. They do not wish others well. HE [Her Excellency] is coming in as top leader to put things right,” she said.
NONM president Jonathan Abraham-Gama and his council counterpart Dr Adress Malata could not be reached for comment.
Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) executive director Martha Kwataine described the attempts by NONM to turn enrolled nurses into registered nurses as an insult and unethical to the nursing profession.
“Elevation does not come down from the blues; it is supposed to be earned, not given. What NONM should do is to advocate that Kamuzu College of Nursing and Malawi College of Health Sciences should come up with a programme that allows those with certificates and diplomas to upgrade their studies to attain a degree and thereafter qualify to become a registered nurse,” said Kwataine.