Some medical personnel from public health facilities,including Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), are facing disciplinary action for allegedly receiving bribes from patients for services that are supposed to be free, Nation on Sunday has established.
Ministry of Health confirmed that some medical personnel have been suspended, pending disciplinary hearing.
The ministry, according to spokesperson Joshua Malango, has also engaged the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to sensitise employees in public health facilities about the criminality of the malpractices.
Malango disclosed that the Health Service Commission (HSC) was handling the issues.
Insiders at KCH confided in Nation on Sunday that the officers are likely to face criminal charges once HSC has heard them and find them guilty.
One insider at KCH disclosed that the situation was getting out of hand at the referral hospital where some ‘bad apples’ serving in crucial departments, could hardly assist patients without demanding cash.
The source said some patients, knowing services in public health facilities are free, except in designated pay section, reported to authorities who started monitoring the situation and investigating, leading to discovery of some of these malpractices.
Malango said the ministry was saddened that there were still some officers involved in the unprofessional conduct after the ministry had issued the warning.
He, however, did not have the exact figure of officers affected and the list of other public health facilities.
“Our advice remains that government hospitals are for free, except the side wards in some facilities where patients are asked to pay a bypass fee.
“In scenarios where patients have opted to pay the bypass fee, our advice is that they must demand a government receipt,” Malango said.
The incidences are coming against a background of a warning in January 2017 by the then Secretary for Health Chimwemwe Banda against such malpractices.
She had warned that the long arm of the law was going to catch up with those involved in the malpractice.
Banda, in the memorandum, said the number of complaints her office had received related to Orthopedic sections where some staff demand money for a patient to be put in a PoP and Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) clinics where staff demand money to put a patient on ARVs.
The ministry said other sections affected by the malpractice included surgery, pharmacy and bringing patients from private hospitals into public hospitals for diagnostic procedures and imposing charges.
Malango encouraged members of the society to continue reporting to authorities when faced with such illegal demands from medical personnel in exchange for services.
He said there is an advisory committee at every public health facility which, among others, comprises traditional leaders and health officials.
He said communities must have a phone number for a liaison officer or an Ombudsman who are available at every public health facility to inform them whenever they face a problem in accessing medical treatment.
Maziko Matemba, executive director of the Health and RightsEducation Programme, commended authorities for taking action on the waywardmedical officers, appealing that the cases must come to their logicalconclusion.