Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya yesterday told parliament that Chishimba Kambwili lied on the floor of the House when he said some senior doctors had been demoted in an unconstitutional manner.
In his debate on the Civil Service Commission, Kambwili claimed a lot of doctors were complaining that they had been removed from managerial positions to being general practitioners despite not doing anything wrong.
“I am extremely disappointed Mr Chairperson about what is happening in the Ministry of Health. I would like the Vice-President when responding, to answer whether Cabinet sat and decided to restructure the Ministry of Health. Doctors are complaining in the Ministry of Health. What is happening is not correct. Even a little child will say ‘this is wrong’. A number of doctors who were medical superintendents running hospitals have been removed from those hospitals and taken to others hospitals as general practitioners. The duty to appoint officers in government lies in the Civil Service Commission but what is happening in the past one year is that doctors have been taken out of their managerial positions into unacceptable positions,” Kambwili said.
“I have a number of doctors that have been removed and are complaining; Dr John Mwewa, Kitwe central hospital removed; Dr Luckson Kasonka ,UTH removed; Dr Manawa, Ndola central removed; Dr George Chipulu, Kabwe general hospital removed,; Dr Chola, Kabwe mine hospital removed; Dr Muntanga Lewanika removed; Dr Mutotoki, Kasama general hospital; Dr Kunda, Mansa hospital; Dr Kelvin, Nchanga hospital removed, and this doctor removed as medical superintendent from Chingola and taken to Chainama hospital as a general practitioner. You can only move people in those circumstances under disciplinary matters. If they have not committed any offence, you go and remove them? He has worked for 25 years in government as an administrator you go and bring someone who has worked in the ministry for four years to come and supervise the one who has a supervisor.”
He said the reshuffles were against the law.
“Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. It is unacceptable to treat people like this. So I’m urging the Civil Service to take an interest in what is happening at the ministry of health. I have letters here where people have been removed and also letters where people have been appointed by the service commission but transferring them is the ministry of health. This is unconstitutional and against the law,” said Kambwili.
But Dr Chilufya said Kambwili was exhibiting cheap political showmanship and peddling falsehoods whilst pretending to be the voice of the voiceless.
“When there are issues of human resource and any other things that we may not understand as law makers, it costs nothing to walk across, come to the offices, ask and we will be able to explain to you. We should not turn the House into a place where we should exhibit cheap political showmanship, peddling falsehoods, lies on the floor of the House, misleading the nation and pretending to be the voice of the voiceless. I withdraw the term lies but Mr Chairperson I am saying that let us not be the voice of wrong doers on the floor of the House,” Dr Chilufya said.
He said some of the names Kambwili mentioned deserved to be de-registered for malpractices.
“Some of the names that I was hearing there, are names of individuals who deserve to be de-registered because of their malpractice. You can’t just come here with half baked information and start castigating government. Mr Chairman, let’s be serious. There is time that you can walk across and ask the minister ‘what is the issue with colleague X’ and we will explain,” he said.
Dr Chilufya revealed that during tea break, Kambwili admitted that he would not have debated in the manner her did had he been privy to all the information surrounding the doctors in question.
“Mr Chairman I must emphasize, I engaged my elder brother honorable Kambwili after his debate and I gave him information on some of the names that he gave me and he confessed, ‘I wouldn’t have debated like this if you had told me all these things. I was looking for you’. Mr Speaker, it costs nothing for us to engage. And I am happy to report that he would not have debated in that manner had he engaged me before. Mr Chairman, that’s why it is important for our colleagues on the left to be present, to listen and to listen to the responses on the allegations they make,” he said.
Dr Chilufya said there was nothing sinister about disciplining erring doctors.
“Mr Chairman, doctors are civil servants and there are rules that govern the conduct of doctors. The vast majority of medical doctors are well behaved, ethical, professional and are doing a great job. But we still have a few quire elements that we need to straighten…Mr Chairman, it is extremely important to note that no doctor is above board. Everybody is governed by the code of conduct and a doctor can be disciplined. One of the doctors mentioned on that list, closed down a hospital. The hospital was commissioned on a day like this and opened to the public, the doctor closed that hospital the following day claiming there was inadequate equipment. You need to discipline such people. Health is non partisan. In a war Mr Chairman, even if you shoot an enemy, the doctor on the side of the opposing force will treat. So we don’t expect doctors to conduct themselves in a manner that depicts its political partisanship. And as political parties, let’s stop abusing doctors or health workers to push our political agenda,” he said.
“I must emphasize that the Civil Service Commission works through directories of human resource in various ministries. Ministries have a right to make human resource changes administratively and getting them ratified through the Civil Service Commission. And no one should come and say that we have taken over the function of the Civil Service Commission. That is the relationship we enjoy. Mr Chairperson, I also want to emphasize that doctors have fields of specialization and you need to ensure that you place a doctor where his competences will be relevant. You don’t take a public health specialist and give him a clinical care job. We may all be called doctors but we have different areas of specialization. It is important to note that we needed to strengthen clinical practice in our hospitals therefore it was important for us to strengthen leadership in our hospitals by placing doctors with the right competences.”
He said the 10 doctors still received the same salary scale.
“This government believes in delivering universal health access. For us to do that we need trained hands to provide service. We removed the specialists from the headquarters and placed them in areas of service delivery. And from 60, we reduced to 10. We sent the doctors to the areas where they will be providing service. Mr Chairperson no one had a deduction or demotion in terms of salary scale. No one was demoted or had the salary scale changed, where is the problem? We transferred a senior superintendent for instance from one hospital to another hospital. What’s wrong with that?” asked Dr Chilufya.
“No one is entitled to staying in one place. And one of the reasons some people under perform is staying in one place. You cannot say ‘I have been a senior medical superintendent for 20 years and therefore I’m entitled to this’. If someone transfers you in order to improve performance then there shall be honourable Kambwili to speak for you on the floor of the house? Mr Chairman, for us to improve performance in various parts of the civil service, we need to ensure that performance informs continuity in your position.”