In a desperate attempt to avert the growing discontent and human resource deficit in public hospitals, government has asked each district council to provide K100 000 towards the recruitment of health personnel.
A memo from Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Principal Secretary (PS) Charles Kalemba to all district commissioners (DCs), titled ‘Request for Financial Contribution for Interviews for Health Care Workers in Councils’ indicates that the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC), which has been copied the letter, has no money for the exercise.
In random interviews yesterday, some DCs said they would comply with the demand while others said they have no money but will comply when resources are available.
In a separate interview yesterday, Kalemba said all councils must provide the money because human resource recruitment is the responsibility of district councils and LGSC is only trying to help in the recruitment process.
In the memo from Kalemba to DCs dated March 13 2019, which we have seen, the ministry is asking each council to contribute K100 000 for the interviews. This means government expects a total of K2.8 million from all the councils.
The memo shows that government released K800 million for recruitment of healthcare workers in central hospitals, Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) facilities and district councils.
“The commission [LGSC] receives little monthly funding from the Treasury which in most cases is only enough for payment of utility bills for the office.
“To facilitate the recruitment of the health care workers, I wish to request for financial contributions from councils to the tune of one hundred thousand kwacha [K100 000] per council. This will enable the commission to conduct interviews and select candidates to fill the
vacant posts in the councils as a way of addressing the staffing gap in the councils,” reads the memo in part.
In an interview yesterday, Dowa DC Alex Mdooko said he saw the memo on the DCs WhatsApp group, and that his office will be making arrangements for the same today [Monday].
“I only saw the memo last Friday on our WhatsApp group as DCs. It’s not that it was sent directly to councils. So, we will provide the money, but those processes will start on Monday,” he said.
His Rumphi counterpart Fred Movete said the arrangement is new, and that it has been necessitated by lack of funds at LGSC.
“This has not happened before, but I think it’s because the commission did not plan for this. They have just been taken by surprise and do not have money.
“More so, because of devolution, as councils were are supposed to recruit the workforce, so that’s why we will provide the money, but this has not been the case previously,” he said.
In Chikwawa, DC Lusizi Nhlane also said he only saw the memo on the WhatsApp group, and that to him, “it is not compulsory.”
“I don’t think it is compulsory. It is for those who can manage to do so. For us, we will provide something when we find resources, for now we don’t have the resources. We have been asked before to train some cadres, and we did provided the money, but for this issue, it is the first time,” he said.
But when contacted, Kalemba said with devolution, each council is mandated to provide such resources for recruitment, which is supposed to be facilitated by the LGSC.
“Government provides these councils with ORTs (Other Recurrent Transactions) and they also generate resources on their own. They are supposed to recruit staff, and they have to pay for that.
“The K100 000 is enough for commissioners to travel and help conduct interviews. So no council can say they will not pay, because they are supposed to do that,” he argued.
Following a decision by a group of Concerned Unemployed Nurses and Midwives (Cunm) members to go on strike, Bwaila Hospital, which serves as a district hospital for Lilongwe, has since Monday last week closed its high dependency unit (HDU).
The HDU is a section in a hospital, usually located close to the intensive care unit, where patients get more care than in a normal ward, but not to the point of intensive care.
Cunm members want MoH to employ them, arguing they have been working in public hospitals on part-time for the past three years, taking home locum and other allowances.
A communique dated February 8 2019 signed by Bwaila district nursing officer, says midwives have since been relocated to other wards to help deal with the shortage.
In the North, Nkhata Bay District Hospital spokesperson Christopher Singini said they have been heavily affected as the hospital already has a few health workers on full-time employment.
In the South, a senior health official in Zomba, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, urged government to employ new health workers to improve the situation.
The part-time nurses and midwives are paid K3 000 for working at night and K2 500 per day besides student upkeep allowances of K30 000 for diploma holders and K50 000 for degree holders.