Old Mutual (Malawi) plc is providing K1 million-worth of life cover to an estimated 25 000 registered frontline health workers during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in the country.
Stakeholders have since expressed hope that the move will motivate the workers.
Old Mutual (Malawi) plc group chief executive officer Edith Jiya said in a statement issued on Wednesday the financial services group will provide K25 billion worth of free Mlera Life Cover to the country’s healthcare workers on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19.
She said the cover aims to financially safeguard workers registered with the Medical Council of Malawi (MCM) and the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi (NMCM) as they serve the nation during this period.
Jiya explained that the six-month cover, probably the biggest corporate social responsibility by a single corporate institution so far, is starting this month through to October and will see Old Mutual Life Assurance Company pay K1 million to the beneficiaries’ family or beneficiaries if a healthcare worker dies of Covid-19.
She said: “Unlike with traditional cover offered under the Mlera Life Cover where a policyholder is required to pay premiums, healthcare practitioners will not pay any premiums for the six-month period.
“Covid-19, accidental and non-accidental deaths are covered, immediately barring death due to listed exclusions. Healthcare practitioners will be offered the opportunity to continue the cover beyond the six months at their discretion by paying the requisite policy premium.”
When contacted for his reaction, Ministry of Health chief of health services Dr Charles Mwansambo said he was attending a teleconference and could not respond immediately.
However, Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi said healthcare workers in the country appreciate Old Mutual’s gesture because they sacrifice a lot to care for Malawians.
He said: “It is always good to see various stakeholders coming to acknowledge the good work that we do. We would like to see others coming in to help.”
On his part, University of Malawi’s College of Medicine epidemiologist Titus Divala said while the move will put healthcare workers at some degree of peace as they work on saving Malawians, other stakeholders should offer other initiatives such as medical cover, transport and psychosocial support.
He said: “There is a need to bring in medical cover for this period. If others can pay [health cover] for all healthcare workers for at least six months, it would help them have some degree of peace as they work.
“Another help would be psychosocial support. Healthcare workers will be seeing more people dying than they normally do and they will be required to work long hours and stay away from their families. This will affect their psychology, demanding some care in that aspect.”
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mehn) executive director George Jobe said insurance has been one of the critical issues that healthcare workers have been raising and having the private sector act in such a way is commendable.
The relief comes barely a month after government succumbed to pressure from healthcare workers to raise their risk allowances by over 1 900 percent, effective April 1 2020 to run throughout the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. With the revision, those in lowest grade will be getting K20 000 and the highest grade K60 000 as risk allowances.
MoH chief director (Administration) Beston Chisamile said the new rates effective April 1 2020 will only apply during the Covid-19 pandemic response.
Last month, Medical Doctors Union of Malawi also wrote government to consider giving them professional and risk allowances, including a non-taxable risk allowance at 70 percent of their salary as well as a professional allowance of 70 percent of their basic salary.
It also comes at a time when junior health workers in Blantyre have planned to stage a sit-in from June 1 2020 over allowances, lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and training related to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
To date, Malawi has about K20 billion for Covid-19 fight comprising K7.5 billion from government and the balance from development partners. The country’s Covid-19 response faces a K137 billion deficit in the budgeted K157 billion.
In the Covid-19 National Response Plan, protection and social support is allocated a lion’s share of K92.4 billion followed by food security with K16.5 billion.
The breakdown showed that coordination has an allocation of about K332.4 million, health cluster was allocated K15.4 billion, while water, sanitation and hygiene cluster got K11.9 billion among others.
So far, Malawi’s Covid-19 cases stand at 101 including seven health workers, with four deaths and 60 active cases since the first three cases were reported on April 2.