The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has confirmed that the People’s Party (PP) candidate Raymond Nkhata used the beds that were removed from Mponela Rural Hospital as a campaign tool in the Mzimba by-elections held last month.
This is one of the findings contained in a seven-paged report released by the Commission following the investigation it conducted in the matter.
The relocation of the beds in September caused uproar and MHRC immediately launched an investigation to establish what happened.
Now, in its report made available to the media, MHRC has faulted the PP government for violating the health rights of Mponela people in the saga.
“The relocation of the beds to Mzimba district, where there [were] Parliamentary by-elections, [was] a clear action by the PP government to deprive the people of Mponela access to health services in order to ‘buy’ votes for the by-elections.
“In addition, the ruling PP candidate, Raymond Chatima Nkhata, also misinformed a congregation in the churches in Mzimba that he had bought the beds when in actual fact they had been taken from Mponela Rural Hospital,” says MHRC.
According to the report, on September 15, officials from the Ministry of Health in Lilongwe visited the hospital to assess the beds that were not assembled.
They found that the beds had no supporting stands and the officials went back to Lilongwe to look for the stands in order to fix the beds but they did not find the spares.
At around 11:30pm the same day, the officials arrived at the hospital to collect 13 beds in the children’s wards because those in the stores did not have supporting stands.
However, there were no patients in the beds at the time but the noise disturbed the patients in the ward and that guardians and the patients were surprised at the drama that followed.
“Much as it is a practice within the Ministry of Health (MoH), the speed at which the reallocation exercise was conducted left people at Mponela Rural Hospital surprised as to what prompted the MoH to do this more so as the removal of the beds was conducted at night,” reads the report.
The report says there was also no clear explanation as to the urgency of the beds in Mzimba or the exercise to be carried out at night.
“Therefore, the removal of the beds and the disturbances that followed was a gross abuse of the patient’s right to human dignity and in contravention of the provisions of Chapter 19 of the Malawi Constitution,” says MHRC.
It further says that officials at the hospital revealed that there were times when all the beds in the ward were used where there was an outbreak.
“If communities surrounding Mponela Rural Hospital had an outbreak, it means that there would not be enough beds to cater for children patients,” the report says.
It therefore recommended that the Ministry of Health should have a clear policy regarding the relocation of resources from one health facility to another.
MHRC also urges political leadership in Malawi to refrain from interfering with the work of the ministry, currently headed by Vice President Khumbo Kachali, as was the case in the Mponela incident.
Asked yesterday if the ministry has a specific policy on relocation of resources, the ministry’s spokesperson Henry Chimbali just said: “As need arises and when we have weighed the benefits of such an action. This is a normal and routine practice upon recommendation. Currently, we don’t have the policy but any action as such requires better analysis.”
On its part, the PP has disputed the findings, suggesting the allegations are ill intended.
“I don’t think the findings are true. These allegations are coming from the people who do not wish us well,” Deputy Publicity Secretary, Ken Msonda, said yesterday.
Nkhata also described the findings of the commission as false saying he never used the beds as a campaign tool.
“It’s true that the beds went to Edingeni but I never told anybody at any time that I bought them. It’s sad that this is coming from MHRC, a body that we should all rely on for credible information,” Nkhata said.
The ministry eventually returned the beds.