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Abused nurses threaten to withdraw labour

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By Mandy Pondani 

The National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi (NONM) has complained of increased attacks and abuses on its members in the health facilities across the country.

NONM president Shouts Simeza said yesterday that reports they have received indicate that such acts are being perpetrated by guardians and social media users due to misconceptions about Covid-19 among other reasons.

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He wondered why the public and the system has waged war on nurses at a time when they are needed the most. Simeza threatened that the healthcare workers will withdraw their labour should the attacks continue.

“Some of us are being discriminated against when using public transport that we spread the virus to the public, and that those nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers inject coronavirus onto those that come to seek health services, and that people die because of this. Demeaning, belittling, undermining the nurses and midwives as if there is nothing that they know and can do,” Simeza said.

Flanked by General Secretary for Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) Denis Kalekeni at a briefing in Blantyre, Simeza cited an extreme case in which a nurse was molested and physically assaulted by a group of guardians of a patient who was admitted to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.

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He said should such attacks continue, NONM will advise its members to withdraw from all the health facilities until they are assured of their safety.

“NONM is challenging the QECH case in court and Blantyre Magistrate Court will start hearing the case this on March 8. The nurse fell victim in her line of duty as she was trying to control human traffic in the ward as one of the Covid-19 precautionary measures only to be roughed up by those whose lives she was intending to protect,” he added.

According to Simeza, when nurses and other healthcare workers discharge their duties under stress and fear due to aggression and hostility, the purpose of providing quality health care services is compromised.

On his part Kalekeni condemned the attacks. He said it is unfortunate for the public to be hating people who are sacrificing themselves in an effort to save other people’s lives.

“We condemn the vice in the strongest terms, and should the nurses stage a stay away because of workplace abuses, the MCTU will call on all on its members to join in solidarity,” Kalekeni said.

Last month, healthcare workers came under attack in Mchinji district where villagers pelted stones at an ambulance carrying a body of a person who had died of Covid-19. That incident happened barely a week after another attack in Machinga district where healthcare workers who had gone to one village to bury a Covid-19 victim were also chased away.

According to NONM over 500 healthcare workers contracted the coronavirus with 10 deaths including a senior nursing lecturer.

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