By Pilirani Kachinziri:
Nonm Executive Director, Benson Phiri, said this at a two-day workshop which the organisation conducted for journalists in Blantyre this week.
The workshop was aimed at sensitising journalists to the role of Nonm and issues affecting the nursing profession in Malawi.
Phiri said it was not illegal for nurses and midwives to withdraw voluntary services they offer to patients.
The development is coming on the backdrop of reports that the government is not increasing nurses and midwives overtime allowances and that it is not employing more qualified nurses despite that there are over 2,000 of them staying idle.
The nurses get between K3, 200 and K3, 600 per day as overtime allowances and Nonm, which is a body for nurses in the country, has been fighting for an increase.
“What we want is that the government should increase the allowances from K3,200 to K10,000 per day and from K3, 600 to K15,000 per day. Otherwise, the nurses are not interested in working overtime. People should not call this a strike, nurses just want to work normal hours as prescribed by the labour laws,” he said.
According to Malawi Labour Laws, an employee is supposed to work 8.5 hours a day but, according to Phiri, some nurses work up to 17 hours without rest.
He said there is an acute shortage of nurses and midwives in public hospitals and yet there are over 2,000 qualified nurses who are unemployed.
“If this problem is not solved soon almost all the hospitals will be operating using skeleton staff. The trend will soon reach critical levels,” he said.
Phiri said because the nurses operate under strenuous conditions they are deemed as rude and unhelpful or some times they commit mistakes which lead to unfair disciplinary action by Nurses Council.
“If you closely follow the working conditions of nurses, you would understand why they make mistakes. They don’t rest and you expect them to work with utmost diligence,” he said.
Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, said the government was conducting interviews to recruit and promote nurses and midwives through Local Government Service Commission and they will be employed by April 1 2019.
He said it was the duty of the Local Government Ministry to employ nurses and midwives in district hospitals because of the decentralisation programme while the Health Ministry is responsible for recruiting nurses in central hospitals.
“They are recruiting nurses according to the needs of district hospitals. Come April 1, we will have additional staff in the hospitals,” he said.
Malango said there was a taskforce which is reviewing allowances for the nurses and midwives.
“But the new allowances can only be incorporated in the new budget which becomes effective on July 1 2019,” he said.
Nonm, which was founded in 1979, is an independent professional organisation which represents nurses and midwives in Malawi.
Its goals are to safeguard nurses/midwives’ professional, organisational union and social economic interests; and to influence nursing education and nursing practice, thereby serving the population of Malawi
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