Three women have died of birth complications in a space of five days after Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga chased away the only nurse at Kasoba Health Clinic.
Confirming the development in a telephone interview on Monday, Medical Assistant at the clinic Emason Masese said on September 3, Kyungu escorted a sick relative to the clinic when he found a nurse, Patwell Silumbu, seated in a chair, a thing that did not go down well with the chief.
Masese said Kyungu lambasted Silumbu, asking why he was outside during working hours calling him negligent.
Kyungu, accompanied by two of his aides, asked the nurse to leave the facility and confiscated keys to the clinic, leaving it dysfunctional for three days.
“I must say the Chief’s judgment was inaccurate because finding a medical officer outside a health centre does not translate into incompetence or negligence as he put it. To me it appears he has personal grudges which are now costing lives of many people in the area,” said Masese.
Adding: “Since the nurse left we are experiencing hell in the maternity section. We have already lost three women due to birth complications. Those deaths were preventable if the Chief never masterminded the nurse’s departure.”
Masese further called Kyungu’s behaviour unbecoming saying Ministry of Health is the one responsible for terms and conditions of service for health workers and it is the last deciding authority on duty stations where the officers operate from.
“I can only advise the Paramount [Chief] to follow necessary procedures whenever he has issues with any government department. Perhaps the problem is that he remains a powerful figure in the district such that even the health committee cannot take any disciplinary action against him,” he explained.
Kasoba clinic serves a catchment area of a population of slightly over 25,000 people.
Weighing in on the matter, health activist Martha Kwataine said it is high time senior chiefs like Kyungu departed from their tendencies of interfering in affairs of the public service.
“That is so unacceptable and very intimidating. As a country we don’t need to tolerate that. Yes, chiefs are custodians of culture and we respect them but they should know their limits. Look now lives have been lost due to his arrogance and failure to follow proper channels,” said Kwataine.
She added: “If that is the manner how he handles serious matters like those of health then am left with questions on how he is heading National Aids Commission (Nac) where he is chairperson of the board because that is bad leadership.”
But when called for comment Kyungu denied the allegation and referred this reporter to the District Health Office (DHO) for details.
“I never confiscated the keys talk to the DHO for the whole story,” Kyungu said.
Meanwhile, the estranged nurse is reporting at the Karonga District Hospital.
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