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Malawian Nurses Threaten To Strike

Malawian nurses are threatening to strike over unpaid salaries and poor working conditions. The nurses say they have gone without pay for up to nine months. They say this is a serious situation in a sector that is currently facing critical staff shortages. Reports suggest that one nurse can be responsible for more than a thousand patients a day.

Hetherwick Ntaba is Malawi’s Minister of Health and spoke with English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey from the capital Lilongwe. Ntaba said, ”It’s not quite true that nurses have not been paid for seven to nine months. What the situation is, is that at times when the nurses finish coming from their training institutions and we are deploying them in the ministry, it takes time for their names to be entered into our payroll system into the whole civil service system. And it’s during this period that they go without payment for their salaries. But even in those cases, the ministry is usually able to use other funds that are available like from the other recurrent transactions, which we do give some entry payments while their payment system is being finalized.”

The minister spoke about what nurses should do in the interim. ”I admit the process is a little on the slow side, we just trying to overhaul the whole deployment system. We want to make sure that these people get entered or they get automatically absorbed into the system and automatically be in the system. During the period of waiting, it’s not that they don’t get any money at all as a matter of fact a lot of them, it’s not all of them, may be just a small number that don’t get captured. But the ministry is able to pay these nurses their salaries from other recurrent transaction votes….That is why I’m saying that the report has been exaggerated.”

Ntaba described how the ministry is addressing this problem. “All the nurses have been assured that non of them will go for a month or two without any pay because if they are not in the payroll system, they are being paid from the other recurrent transactions vote. The media have their ways of exaggerating some of these reports and I suppose they will continue doing so for their purposes. But as far as our nurses are concerned they are being taken care off. The more important thing is not about these reports coming out or not; it’s about whether the nurses are getting their money…and this is what we are assuring them off.”

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