TEMPERS flared during a health stakeholders meeting in Karonga on Thursday over a petition which the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Karonga Diocese presented to President Peter Mutharika two weeks ago, demanding answers to challenges facing the public health sector.
Some officials from the Ministry of Health (MoH), led by Northern Zone Health Officer Owen Musopole, wondered whether the meeting was necessary since some of the issues raised by the community members were contained in the petition to the President.
After an hour of deliberations, community members from Karonga and Chitipa were displeased with failure by Musopole’s team to articulate probable solutions to some of the challenges people are facing.
Some of the challenges are pilferage of drugs, lack of ambulances, non-functioning mortuaries and inadequate medical equipment.
“You are avoiding the questions. We appreciate the efforts of the government in some areas but, for now, we want to appreciate the efforts of the government in addressing challenges that we have highlighted,” said Samalia Msiska from Nyungwe.
In response, the health officials accused CCJP of presenting a petition to Mutharika two weeks ago without following procedures. Karonga District Nursing Officer, Maaron Nyirenda, said the meeting was not significant because the officials summoned to the meeting had already been by-passed.
“It is ironic that you called us today to discuss matters which were already raised with the higher authority,” Nyirenda said. Karonga District Health Officer (DHO), Pheneous Mfune, urged the delegates to wait for a response from State House.
“When I came here, I did not want to comment on that issue. What happened simply meant that the DHO cannot provide solutions, hence the decision to engage the higher office. Sometimes we tend to wonder why some of our stakeholders fail to cooperate with existing district structures,” Mfune said.
Speaking in support of his juniors Musopole also distanced himself from the petition saying: “Don’t be mistaken, I am not here to respond to the petition. I will talk about issues that have been directed to me or us in this meeting and not elsewhere.”
Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director, George Jobe, who was a guest at the meeting, described the altercations as unfortunate.
“Our understanding is that there were a number of district interface meetings conducted in both Chitipa and Karonga and all issues in the petition and those deliberated on today came from those forums, hence there is no need to point fingers [at anyone].”
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