The Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi says it wants government to revise doctors’ working conditions to curb rampant brain drain.
Speaking in an interview Friday, Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi president Amos Nyaka said some of the working conditions that need reviewing include hiring more medical personnel to ease work pressure, promoting specialised doctors and providing timely internship to trainee doctors.
According to Nyaka, doctors in the country face many challenges ranging from over working, poor salaries and lack of promotions hence, some migrate to other countries.
“Malawi doctors are the lowest paid in the Sadc region. We do not have enough doctors in our hospitals but government is reluctant to employ more,” he said.
On internships, he said it is worrisome that after going through years of training, every new doctor has to struggle to start practising.
Explained Nyaka: “These internships are a requirement to enhance their skills and grill them to work independently. It is worrisome that every time we hear that government has no resources to hire more medical staff and we tend to wonder where they get money such as the much-talked about K4 billion. It is indeed a matter of priorities.”
But responding to an emailed questionnaire on Friday, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson Joshua Malango said government is determined to improve the quality of healthcare to its citizenry.
He said the ministry was failing to accommodate all trainee doctors due to limited space but that now, in agreement with the Medical Council of Malawi, it has given a go-ahead to Mzuzu and Zomba central hospitals to start hosting medical interns from the College of Medicine (CoM).
Initially, only Queen Elizabeth and Kamuzu central hospitals were mandated to host interns.
He further said in the recent past, Malawi has made progress in doctor retention.
However, patients hospital inspections officer at Medical Council of Malawi Cliffton Gondwe, contradicts Malango’s sentiments on doctors’ retention, saying looking at the current doctor-to-patient ratio, Malawi is still far from retaining medical personnel.
Recent government statistics show that the doctor to patient ratio stands at 6 to 100 000 (1:17 000). World Health Organisation recommends a doctor/patient ratio of 1: 600.
According to CoM principal Mwapatsa Mipando, each year, an average of 80 students graduate from the college in bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery (MBBS) after undergoing six years of training. Annual average unit cost to train an undergraduate student at CoM as calculated in 2016 is about K5 million