ZAMBIA Medical Association president Dr Abidan Chansa says there is nothing wrong with public health workers working in private institutions provided they meet the 40 hour work period provided.
The Ministry of Health yesterday said no doctor, nurse, midwife, clinical officer or ministry employee will be allowed to work in any private institution whilst simultaneously employed in the public service.
The “private” institutions include hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, academic institutions and any other organisations.
But Dr Chansa said what the health workers do outside the 40-hour work period provided for them is their own business and the association would today meet the permanent secretary and chart a way forward on the same.
However, in March, health permanent secretary Dr Kennedy Malama said health personnel employed at public health institutions are allowed to work for private institutions as long as it does not interfere with their daily duties.
Dr Malama said when he and his team from the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) appeared before the parliamentary committee on parastatal bodies to respond to audit queries cited in the Auditor General’s report for the financial year ended December 31 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 .
He told the committee that at the moment, there was no policy which barred public service health workers from giving consultancy services to private institutions.
“Moonlighting is permissible so long someone does moonlighting, it could be a doctor, a pharmacist, a clinical officer within what is allowed. You are off duty, you are on leave, you may so something so long it’s not infringing your daily work, what you are employed for under government. And as I alluded to where medicines of products from government premises or institutions find their way in a private outlet, that is a serious offence,” Dr Malama said them.
But in a confidential letter to all provincial health directors and other senior health personnel dated May 14, 2018, Dr Malama stated that heads of institutions and other supervisors were required to ensure strict adherence to the directive.
He stated that the ministry had noted with concern that public service employees in the health sector particularly medical personnel had been engaging themselves in double or multiple employment whilst remaining active civil servants.
“You are hereby reminded that in accordance with the Terms and Condition of Service No 86 ‘no officer may draw a salary for more than one post at the same time,’” Dr Malama stated.
He stated that the directive was with immediate effect and failure to comply would constitute misconduct and result in disciplinary action being instituted against erring officers in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of Service for the Public Service.
“Addressees are requested to bring the contents of this minute to the attention of all officers under their control and supervision,” stated Dr Malama.
But Dr Chansa said the association issued a statement in 2016 when the government asked for their opinion on the same and reiterated what it said that “provided the health workers meet the 40 hours they are supposed to work per week, what they do outside the 40 hours was their business.
He said health workers were mandated to work from 08:00 hours to 16:00 hours from Monday to Friday and 08:00 to 12:00 on Saturdays even though most of them go beyond the stipulated time.
Dr Chansa said if a person was comfortable venturing into farming or any other business to make extra income, they should be free to do it after they knock off.
“So if a person is comfortable doing clinical work, let the person do it,” Dr Chansa said.
He said patients who sought medical attention from private hospitals were just as human as those who go to public institutions, hence maintaining the ban would make them suffer.
Dr Chansa said the government may argue against the subject of abuse and agreed that there may be a few individuals abusing this and what could be done is deal with the culprits and discipline them.