By Faith Kamtambe, James Chauluka & Samuel Kalimira:
Some qualified but unemployed nurses Wednesday marched in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu before delivering petitions to President Peter Mutharika through local councils, giving the government 30 days to offer them full-time employment or the nurses would down their tools in public health facilities.
Donald Kanjere Zgambo led the protesters in Lilongwe where they delivered the petition to Lilongwe City Council Chief Executive Officer John Chome, to express anger with the government’s treatment of the 2,035 nurses who are working on locum and internship basis.
“We have five major demands but our ultimate demand is that nurses and midwives who are currently not employed but are working and form a strong force in public hospitals, should be employed. All nurses on locum, internship and just receiving upkeep allowances should be employed,” he said.
“We want internships to be abolished for the nursing and midwifery disciplines. People in these disciplines start practical work from first year. In this regard, the internship is not worth it.”
Chome promised to deliver the petition to relevant authorities.
During the march which took place in Blantyre, one of the unemployed nurses, Bertha Sukwemba, said it does not make sense that many qualified nurses are jobless when public health facilities are understaffed.
“Thousands of nurses are not employed yet the workload is just too much. Due to desperation, the same government which is failing to employ us, is making us work on internship basis and pay us peanuts. We are always exhausted and this is risky. A nurse can lose his or her licence because, in case of mistakes due to these system gaps, all the blame is placed on the nurses,” she said.
Sukwemba said when the nurses work on internship basis, they are given tasks which are similar to those of full-time employees.
Originally, the nurses planned to march and present their petitions to Mutharika through city councils during the demonstrations which the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) wanted to hold. HRDC cancelled the demonstrations.
Wednesday, the situation became tense at Blantyre City Civic offices where the authorities initially refused to receive the nurses’ petition addressed to Mutharika, Vice President Saulos Chilima and other senior civil servants.
“Even though we are not employed, we form a strong workforce that cares for the public in exploitative and cheap forms of labour through locum, internship and upkeep allowances. Your Excellency Sir, we get as low as K2,500 for working during the whole day and K3,000 for working the whole night on locum,” the petition reads in part. Malawi needs additional 5,000 nurses.
In Mzuzu, the nurses marched before presenting their petition to Mutharika through Mzimba North District Commissioner’s representative, Tamara Nyirongo.
The nurses’ representative, Emmanuel Banda said they feel uncomfortable working on temporary basis when some of their colleagues are fully employed by the government.
Banda said the nurses want an increase in locum allowances from K2,500 to K10,000 for those working during the day and K3,500 to K15,000 for night duties.
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