The office of the Ombudsman says it has launched an expedited investigation into allowance arrears for frontline healthcare workers at Kameza Isolation Centre in Blantyre.
In a written response yesterday, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma said her office received a complaint in writing from the frontline healthcare workers last week on the matter. She said the office is handling it with the urgency it deserves.
The letter from the frontline healthcare workers to Chizuma, which we have seen, is asking the Ombudsman to force relevant authorities to pay them allowance arrears amounting to K56 million accumulated from April this year.
Chizuma yesterday said the frontline healthcare workers are playing a crucial role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “We received a complaint from the healthcare workers and our plan is to bring to a roundtable all the relevant parties to this issue. We believe that we need to be handling the frontline healthcare workers’ issues with utmost speed because that is quite crucial in the larger fight against Covid-19.”
The Ombudsman said they hope to bring all parties together this week.
In their letter, the frontline healthcare workers state that despite a Ministry of Health memo in April that they will be receiving allowances, that has not happened.
Reads the letter in part: “On 10th June, we wrote a letter informing the Blantyre District Health Office [DHO] that we will opt for a sit-in regarding the allowance arrears.
“There was no feedback until June 15 when we started the sit-in. And on 16th June, officials from the Ministry of Health promised to provide our allowance arrears within two weeks.”
However, after two weeks elapsed, the health workers did not receive their allowance, prompting them to stop reporting for work at the facility.
But last Tuesday, Blantyre DHO director of health and social services Dr. Gift Kawalazira said the healthcare workers will be paid their allowance arrears once a vetting process is finalised.
He said the frontline healthcare workers were paid K16 million two weeks ago.
Following the sit-in by the frontline healthcare workers, the Blantyre DHO wrote health facilities advising them to stop referring patients to the isolation centre but instead to create wards for Covid-19 patients with enough personal protective equipment given to health personnel.