Sit-in cripples health system

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A nationwide strike by nurses in Malawi has paralysed operations in public hospitals as the southern African country battles the spread of Covid-19.

The nurses are complaining about poor work conditions, being overworked and lacking safety equipment to protect them against coronavirus where 17 cases have since been confirmed including two deaths.

The nurses are also pushing the government to hire more health workers and increase their health insurance allowances.

Access to public healthcare services in Malawi is free - it is mostly used by the majority of the country's population who are poor.

At the country's main referral hospital in the capital, Lilongwe, groups of nurses have been sitting on the lawns outside the hospital playing card games.

Some patients walked around the facility hoping the situation would change.

In the commercial capital of Blantyre, the entrance to the main referral hospital was closed by rocks and tree branches.

There’s been no immediate reaction from government, but last week, Health Minister Jappie Mhango said several measures had been taken to deal with the strike including recruiting thousands of new hospital staff.

However health rights activists have warned that the current strike by public health workers will cause more deaths from other conditions rather than Covid-19.

Maziko Matemba who is the Executive Director of the Health Rights Education Programme warns that the situation is a recipe for disaster.

"It is unfortunate that the sit-in is coming at a time we have a pandemic and also that many people are getting affected," Matemba says.

 

Only a few patients that are admitted to some wards, are the ones being attended to by nurses and doctors the rest are being returned.

Notable facilities that have been affected by the strike include the Queen Elizabeth Central in Blantyre, Bwaila in Lilongwe, Zomba General, as well as Karonga and Balaka district hospitals.

 

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