Dr. Charles Mwansambo, Secretary for Health
* Appeals to all stakeholders to desist from making reference to the said document
* Ministry of Health is aware of the challenges that are prevailing in public health facilities
By Duncan Mlanjira
Secretary for Health, Dr Charles Mwansambo has disassociated the Ministry of Health from a document that is circulating on social media, allegedly outlining austerity measures to be implemented in district health facilities in the country.
Mwansambo says the Ministry has neither authored nor released such a document and thus “appeals to all stakeholders to desist from making reference to the said document”.
“The general public is hereby informed that the Ministry of Health is aware of the challenges that are prevailing in public health facilities. As such, the Ministry would like to assure the public that appropriate measures are already being taken to ensure that continuous access to quality health services is safeguarded for all Malawians at all levels.”
Mwansambo further encourages its stakeholders to contact the Ministry for any further inquiries on this or any related matter to always to obtain the correct and accurate information.
The purported circular which we have seen, amongst others, indicated the suspension of ambulances from carry dead bodies in adherence to infection prevention measure; depending on the district volume, the district health management leadership may decide to park some of its ambulances and keep one running for the district hospital and a maximum of 3 ambulances for health centers.
The instructions which Mwansambo has refuted also indicated that all ambulances were to operate from the district health offices and that districts should only operate two utility vehicles and park the rest.
Picking and dropping health workers on night duty to and from the hospital was also not allowed and that during night duty, all health workers were to be required to spend the night within the facility.
DHO health centre clinical and outreach clinic visits were also suspended unless a motorcycle may be used for some specific visits and that district health management integrated support supervision should be reduced from quarterly to biannually;
Patients food service was also mentioned in which hospitals were to minimize food rations to 1 meal a day for a patient and to suspend provision of meals to staff on duty while the use of standby generators bigger than 15KVA was to be suspended and instead use smaller ones in specific key strategic sections of the hospitals.
These are measures which Mwansambo has refuted but suffice to say, President Lazarus Chakwera announced on May 31 austerity measures to cut public spending and were not subject to amendment by any Government Ministry, Agency, Department or Parastatal without prior authorization from the Office of the President — which are:
1) Public officers, including the President, who need to travel abroad for their work out of absolute necessity will only be allowed to take no more than three trips during the remainder of the year, unless in cases of unforeseen extreme emergency;
2) The number of people in a delegation travelling abroad will be subjected to stringent restrictions;
3) No top-up allowances will be paid to public officers on fully funded trips for work, training, workshops or conferences;
4) Ministry officials traveling within the region for work must fly economy class;
5) All controlling officers will be held responsible for ensuring strict adherence to spending limits we have set for domestic travel;
6) All boards of state-owned enterprises and statutory corporations must confine themselves to quarterly meetings, plus one extraordinary meeting per quarter for emergency situations pursuant to the approval of the line Minister, unless allowed otherwise by the President’s office;
7) Allocations of fuel allowance for all Cabinet Members is to be cut by 20%;
8) The issuance of fuel to public officers who are not entitled to the same is forbidden, and my office will soon provide detailed guidelines on how this will be regulated;
9) The Minister of Transport is directed to provide guidelines to MDAs for the Government-wide adoption of distance charts to regulate fuel consumption per vehicle;
10) The movement of pool vehicles owned by the Government beyond 6pm shall be restricted, and no driver shall be permitted to take such vehicles to their homes, and controlling officers must justify to my office any emergency exceptions to be made;
11) Procurement of new vehicles by MDAs has forthwith been suspended until further notice from the President’s office, and when this restriction is lifted, his office will regulate what model of vehicles are procured for public officers of different grades to end the culture of people feeling entitled to 4x4s;
12) To end the practice of public officers driving Government vehicles they are not authorized to, all public officers authorized to self-drive will soon be issued with an authorization card to be enforced on the roads by the police;
13) The renewal or signing of new employment contracts in all state-owned enterprises is forbidden forthwith, except for special circumstances that must be approved by the President’s office, and this restriction will not be lifted until the Office of the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations is done reviewing the remuneration in this sector to ensure that it reflects the state of the economy and the performance of the institution;
14) No procuring entity in the Government shall be allowed to import goods or services into the country unless proof that the goods and services cannot be procured locally is submitted to and approved by the Minister of Finance.