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Parliament against politicisation of central hospital boards

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The Parliamentary Committee on Health has asked President Peter Mutharika to appoint board members for central hospitals based on their expertise and not political appeasement.

The call follows the recent approval by Cabinet of Central Hospital Autonomy Reform which will see central hospitals being run independently by boards.

While the reform is touted as key to promoting efficiency in service provision in central hospitals, parliamentary Committee on Health Chairperson, Juliana Lunguzi, said central hospitals are technical institutions and, as such, political appeasement should not have room in the boards.

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Recently, Mutharika appointed Paramount Chief Lundu as chair of Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) Board, a development Lunguzi described as political appeasement.

Lunguzi said, through trips she took to Ethiopia and other countries which follow the system, she learnt that the boards require technical minds to function.

“We have seen, where we have gone, that such boards are run by technocrats. But, looking at what has been happening in the country, [as evidenced by] the appointment of Paramount Lundu to chair MBTS Board, we have failed. This is a serious issue that should be handled by people who are competent, as opposed to people who are appointed because they support someone’s party,” she said.

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Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director, George Jobe, said autonomy would improve efficiency among health workers in central hospitals since their employers will be closer to them, as opposed to the current situation where top officials are based at the Ministry of Health headquarters in Lilongwe.

But Jobe agreed with Lunguzi that there should be no appeasement in the appointment of board members of central hospitals for them to run smoothly.

“The reforms will help end cases of complacency among some health workers who think that their employers are far away, at the Ministry of Health headquarters in Lilongwe. It will also help in generation and utilisation of resources but, for the system to work properly, politics should not play any part in the appointment of board members,” he said.

The country has four central hospitals of Queen Elizabeth, Zomba, Kamuzu and Mzuzu.

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