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Crisis at QECH

Main referral hospital stops admitting patients as staff strike

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MATEMBA—More needs to be done

As the staff sit-in at Malawi’s biggest referral hospital Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) enters second week, the hospital has suspended admitting patients.

Hospital Director Dr. Samson Mndolo while not stating in clear terms said negotiations are going on between the staff and the Ministry of Health.

“Negotiations between the staff and ministry continue. Malawi Human Rights Commission and the office of the Ombudsman are mediating [the talks]. Let’s wait and see how far we go,” he said.

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Reports say Dr. Mndolo himself and his deputy Linley Chewere worked throughout Wednesday night helping pregnant women deliver babies at the hospital’s maternity wing after staff abandoned their duties due to the sit in.

One of the workers at the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity said the senior nursing officers who are popularly known as matrons are the ones attending to the patients who remain in most of the wards who were admitted before the sit-in.

Among others, nurses, doctors and clinicians at the hospital are protesting lack of proper training for the healthworkers who are on the frontline fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“Covid-19 is a serious disease which requires that we be in the know of what is happening. We were supposed to be trained on how best to handle such cases so that we protect ourselves and protect the patients,” he one of the protesting workers on Thursday.

The health workers also decry low risk allowance which is pegged at K1,800 per month and that the hospital should be providing institutional transport since minibus fares have doubled due to restrictions which have been implemented to fight the pandemic.

“With the coming of Covid-19, the risk of us contradicting life threatening diseases is real. We are saying our life cannot be worth K1,800. This amount was arrived at in [the year] 2000 and that is why we are saying the allowance should be 50 or 70 percent of our basic salaries,” he said.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango asked for more time before commenting on the matter.

“Let me come back to you. What I know is that there have been negotiations and the PS [Principal Secretary of Health Dan Namarika] has been going there,” he said.

Health rights activist Maziko Matemba said it was sad that the two sides are failing to agree on how best to resolve their grievances.

“I am told that the main issue which remains to be resolved is to do with the allowances. These issues have to be resolved as quickly as possible because QECH is a very important hospital and needs to be fully operational,” he said.

Another health rights activist George Jobe said it is important that everyone including government officials remember that they are potential patients.

He said it is sad that the sit-in continues at the country’s biggest referral hospital putting lives of patients at risk.

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