By Blessings Kaunda – Mana.
A woman at Kabuwa in Traditional Authority (TA) Khosolo, Mzimba District gave birth in a canoe in presence of men after health personnel at Kabuwa Health Center denied to assist her claiming they were on strike demanding salary increment from government.
In a whatsapp voice note sent to TA Khosolo, Member of Parliament for the Area, Ackson Kalaire Banda and Kabuwa Macheza Whatsapp Group, Group village Headman Chimulu, who witnessed the canoe birth, expressed shock over the development.
“I was going to Dwangwa, upon arrival at Kabuwa Health Centre, I found women who were stranded after health personnel denied to assist a pregnant women who went to deliver, saying they were on strike demanding salary increment,” he said.
Group Chimulu said the health workers advised the women to go to Nkhunga Health Centre near Dwangwa Trading Centre in Nkhotakota, 11 and 13 Kilometres from Kabuwa Health Centre respectively.
He said efforts to reason with the health personnel, considering that the pregnant woman was almost due, proved futile as the workers stood their ground, saying they had not time to assist the patient.
When contacted by Mana Thursday about content of the whatsapp clip, Chimulu confirmed the development.
He added that he started off with the women to catch a canoe along the Dwangwa River for Nkhunga Health Centre.
“The moment we arrived at the canoe, the canoe operators were surprised to see the women trying to geton board in the condition she was. But after getting the news, everybody on the journey agreed to proceed with the woman to Nkhunga,” Chimulu said.
He said while sailing on the river, the woman failed to hold on and her fellow women notice that the pregnancy was due.
“We were told to close our eyes because they wanted to help their fellow woman to give birth.Eventually we heard a baby cry,” Chimulu said.
When contacted to comment on the matter, Director of Health and Social Services at Mzimba District Hospital, Dr. Lumbani Munthali said his office was investigating the matter.
“We are investigating on what happened and once we have the full story our Public Relations Officer [PRO] will give you a response,” he said.
When contacted PRO for Mzimba District Hospital, Ellings Nyirenda said district management was not aware about the issue.
“As district management [we] are not aware about the alleged issue happening at Kabuwa. Therefore we will institute investigation to establish the truth on the matter and take collective measure in line with policies as enriched in the Malawi Public Service Regulation.
All in all officers are advised to abide by their work ethics of which they took an oath,” he said.
This was not first time for Kabuwa Health Centre to health personnel to ill-treat patents.
In 2018 another expectant mother delivered twins on the road after being denied service and both babies died.
Besides, in January,2020, a family of teachers at Kambulaudzu Primary School lost their son, who was in standard two, after medical personnel denied to wake up and assist him during night, and later claimed the key to the hospital was missing.
In reaction, the PRO said the health centre has health management committee and that some of the alleged issue are domestic and could be ably dealt with by the committee.
“When there are issues about their mandate usually they feed district health management team, but to our surprise, nothing has been referred to us from them,” said the PRO.
Health Advisory Committee Chairperson, Emmanuel Zimba said he learnt about the canoe incident from Group Village Headman, Chimulu on Thursday.
“This is the second time for a pregnant woman to be denied a service at Kabuwa Health Centre. We are afraid that eventually people will stop seeking treatment from health facilities.
“When such things happen we bring them to the attention of the DHO. The incident about death of the twins; I called the DHO who only said will investigate the matter but up to date we haven’t heard anything from him,” he said on Friday.
The Chairperson said his committee finds it difficult to make physical follow ups considering that Kabuwa is situated about 300km from Mzimba Boma and that mode of transport is a challenge.
He said his committee still encourages communities to report any health threats they may face.
Zimba said the committee has scheduled a meeting with chiefs and health personnel at Kabuwa Sunday to discuss the recent issue.
Member of Parliament for Mzimba South East Constituency, Ackson Kalaire Banda said he received the voice note from group Chimulu and forward it to the DHO.
“I then called him [the DHO] and he said he will make a follow up,” the MP said.
He expressed shock over the development saying people have a right to access to good health and that they go to health facilities for treatment.
Banda said whatever disagreements between the health workers and their employer need not to affect innocent people.
He said he expects Mzimba District Health Office authorities to take an appropriate action against the health workers who denied to assist the woman.
Efforts to talk to workers at Kabuwa Health Centre proved futile as their contacts could not be reached.
However, a Clinician who once worked for Mzimba District Health Office and opted for anonymity said the said salary increment strike would be in reference to locum the health workers receiveon top of their normal salaries.
“Kabuwa is one of hard to reach areas in Mzimba and locum serves as motivation to the health workers there. Even when they go to collect drugs at the district hospital, they are entitled to night allowance unlike those in other health centres,” the source claimed.
Kabuwa is surrounded by Dwangwa River and Lupachi River and people use canoes as mode of transport to get to the mainland where they get most of social services.