Malawi government priorities upside down’
While government was willing to spend over K330 million to fund its two-week session to the UN General Assembly, our calculations show that an additional K50 million to that figure could keep the 51 doctors the same government has been been dilly-dallying to employ for almost three years at K384 million.
The K330 million could also keep the rejected 330 nurses in employment for one year replete with a K81 million remainder.
The doctors, whose services the DPP administration is denying the suffering Malawians, would cost it K519 million in a year.
Our calculations also show that the K600 million which the government received from newly licensed mobile phone network operator, Lacell Private Limited, on Monday this week, is enough to keep the 51 doctors and 330 nurses in employment for one year, leaving a balance of K81 million.
The calculations are based on entry salaries for a medical doctor at K2, 506, 260 per annum in grade H which translates into K208, 855 per month.
The enrolled nurse/midwife technician gets K1, 186, 120 per annum at entry point in grade K which translates into K98, 843.33 per month.
Entry point for doctors at senior level in Grade K is K2, 135, 760 per annum.
We got the figures from district health officers (DHOs).
The United States of America embassy in Malawi issued 115 visas to the Malawi delegation and the UN gave only six passes, meaning that 109 people were funded by government and other bodies.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has described government’s dragging of feet to recruit medical personnel and the expenditure at the UN as clear signs of moral bankruptcy.
“As a country, we have been complaining about acute shortage of medical personnel due to brain drain. It is sad that while other medical practitioners have shown commitment to work right here at home, government is failing to employ them. Certainly our priorities seem to be upside down,” said CCJP programme manager, Martin Chiphwanya.
He said the much talked about UN expenditure begs some serious questions on our priorities as a country.
“While we all should be thinking of long term solutions when it comes to the recruitment of medical personnel, the UN expenditure itself demonstrates clear signs of moral bankruptcy in the administration.”
Malawi Health Equity Network executive director, Martha Kwataine, said the Peter Mutharika administration should not use Cashgate as an excuse not to do its duty, arguing it took place before the DPP assumed power and as such it should have prepared for it.
Kwataine said by taking a big delegation to the UN, Mutharika showed no commitment on his part to ask for external help.
“For me this is an emergency but our government is not treating it as such when people in health centres are dying. Priorities of this government are upside down. If resources were properly used in this country, we could not fail to employ 51 doctors and 330 nurses. That is a big joke,” said Kwataine.
Ministry of Health spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, said “Now, in line with the Public Sector Reform Programmes, we are supposed to be procedural in our recruitment because Ministry of Health alone does not recruit people. It has to get an okay from the Department of Human Resources…but now we would not be able to pay them.”
Later in the week, Chikumbe said Treasury and Department of Human Resource Management and Development met and resolved to offer contracts to the doctors and nurses but without clear source of funding for them.
Treasury spokesperson, Nations Msowoya, also said there were no funds for the exercise.
Mutharika on Thursday vehemently defended his government’s expenditure at the UN, saying the Malawi delegation to the UN was 106 and that most of them were not funded by government.
Tellingly, the President did not release the list of 106 people and who funded them to New York to the media.
Meanwhile, the Medical Doctors Union of Malawi (MDUM) and the Society of Medical Doctors (SMD) have given government a 14 day ultimatum to employ the 51 doctors or face industrial action by all medical personnel in the country.
A statement from the two bodies reads that Malawi remains one of a WHO priority country perpetually failing to meet the target ratio of 23 doctors per 10 000 people.
“Government does not have the luxury to ignore 51 recently graduated medical doctors unless it is contented with what other commentators have vehemently asserted: Malawi Government has its priorities upside down. Malawi has only two doctors and 37 nurses and midwives for every 100, 000 people. This is appalling and Malawians deserve better,” reads the statement.
National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives has also threatened to take government to court if it proceeds with its decision to terminate employment for 330 nurses who have just worked for about two months.
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