One patient is reported to have died after the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Zomba Central Hospital (ZCH) was closed from Tuesday due to rationalisation of staff as some are reluctant to continue working overtime when they are not being paid allowances.
The hospitalâ€™s workers union president, Enock Chitimbe, said in an interview on Thursday at the time the ICU was being closed, four patients were moved to the normal 12 and 13 wards.
He said after noticing that some patients were in bad condition, the hospital transferred two of them to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) in Blantyre where he claimed one person died whereas the other was sent back.
Chitimbe claimed that one of the patients, who was also moved from the ICU to the ward, died at ZCH, a fact The Nation could not immediately verify.
While ZCH director Dr Mathias Joshua denied the reports that the ICU was closed in an interview on Wednesday, Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali said on Thursday an investigation has been instituted to establish what transpired.
Said Joshua: â€œIt is not true that it is closed. The fact is that we donâ€™t have patients and once we have a case that needs the services of the ICU, we will open it. If you talk of shortage of staff, we are rationalising staff because there is shortage of staff in the country and it is not the issue of locum [an allowance health workers get for working outside normal hours].â€
But Chimbali described the situation at ZCH as complex. He said the Ministry was working on ensuring that the hospital was fully operational and that patients are not denied services.
National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives (NONM) president Jonathan Abraham-Gama also confirmed the closure of the ICU and that a patient had died due to the absence of such services.
He said the deceased (name withheld) was admitted at the hospital after suffering head injuries in a road traffic accident and that after assessment by the clinician and the anaesthetist, it was recommended that he benefits from the ICU services.
Abraham-Gama said NONM established that bad working relationship between management and staff led to failure to implement locum reforms to the extent that workers had resorted to either abandon the locum or limit themselves to 128 hours per month.
The staff at ZCH were interdicted after they had staged a strike demanding that Dr Joshua, the chief nursing officer a Mrs Nyirenda, the chief hospital administrator Matthew Mataka and the human resource officer Peter Nangwale be removed from the facility.