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Ombudsman orders government to hire 5,000 HSAs

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Joshua Malango

Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the Ministry of Health to permanently employ over 5,000 Health Service Assistants (HSAs) before February 28 2021.

The HSAs in question had issued a number of complaints to the office, among them that their employment status had not been clear since 2006 and that no death gratuity was sent to families of HSAs that lost their lives.

According to a determination which The Daily Times has seen, dated November 28 2020 and signed by Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, some HSAs including Joyce Mphongozidana and Sila Mpokoso wrote the Ombudsman on April 8 2019, alleging that the Ministry of Health had unfairly treated them in the way its officials handled their recruitment.

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“In the inquiry, one of the complainants by the name Joyce Mphongozidana stated that the group applied for the vacancy following an advert on 23 October 2006 in The Daily Times. The advert indicated that the position will be funded by Global Fund.

“However, once they were hired, most of them kept receiving warning letters because they didn’t know the requirements of the job. Additionally, some of their colleagues lost their lives and their families did not receive any assistance for funerals nor [sic] death gratuity,” reads the determination.

It further states that the complainants were told to apply for an internal vacancy in 2015. The Ombudsman heard that the Ministry of Health had encouraged them to apply on the basis that they were not full government employees yet.

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The complainant further stated that they all applied but a few were allocated posts. As such, they formally wrote a letter of complaint to the ministry in 2019, asking for full-time employment and clarification on whether families of their deceased colleagues would receive any benefits.

However, they were repeatedly told to wait but never received any feedback and thus filed the complaint to Office of the Ombudsman.

In her determination, Chizuma states that the ministry should ensure that all the complainants are given permanent employment forms to sign, and also pay the families of the deceased HSAs.

She faults ministry officials for flouting laws.

The letter further states that, in justifying its actions, the Ministry of Health responded that funding from the Global Fund had been cut short in 2010.

However, following the directive from the Office of the Ombudsman, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said the ministry was drafting a response to the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We have received the letter from the Ombudsman. We have taken note of what has been written in the letter. Shortly, we will respond to the Ombudsman,” Malango said.

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