By Synd Kalimbuka
Health workers at Zomba Mental Hospital have closed the main entrance to the facility, saying they are being harassed by patients due to lack of security at the institution.
According to the nurses and ward attendants Malawi24 has spoken with, the security guards under Mass Security Limited which the hospital contracted to provide services have not been paid for four months and some of them have resigned from the company.
This has greatly affected and compromised services at the facility for over two weeks.
Nurses and ward attendants have been harassed by the patients several times without any action by hospital authorities hence this strike.
No health care service including provision of breakfast had been provided to the patients up to midday when our reporter visited the hospital.
In an interview with Malawi24, one of the concerned workers said due to unavailability of security services at the facility health workers have been harassed and severe beaten by the psychiatric patients.
“We are demanding immediate action by hospital management in making sure health workers are safe here because patients have been beating us due to shortage of security guards following withdrawal of guards from Mass Security Limited due to four months’ salary arrears,” he said.
The workers are also complaining of welfare where they have been promised to undergo in-services but the management has failed to provide them.
“We want management to address us on why they have failed to provide such services including what has happened for the services by Mass Security Limited to reach this stage,” he added.
It appears that Zomba mental hospital has not been paying the security company which has resulted the company to fail to clear salary arrears for its employees.
During the visit, our reporter saw four Psychiatric patients escaping through the fence as nobody was attending them inside.
Spokesperson for Zomba Mental Hospital Harry Kawiya told us that the management is trying to negotiate with the concerned workers to resume to their respective work.
He however said the management don’t know what the concerned workers are looking for.
“We are not sure of what they are looking for because they are mentioning a lot of issues without specifying what has really prompted to protest,” Kawiya said.
He added that it is very unfortunate that they want to meet the whole management team saying it’s a bit tricky because it is not practical to do this as others are away.
Mathews Singano is a father of a 14-year-old boy who was admitted at the facility on Friday.
He said he was very concerned with the situation considering that his child has not given food and medication following the strike.
He called on authorities to address the issue immediately so that patients at the facility receive proper care.
No health care service including medical care and food is currently being provided to the patients since morning.
Meanwhile, concerned workers have threated to take another step of strike if management fail to address their concerns.
Concerned workers include Clinicians, Nurses, Ward attendants, messengers, government guards, PBX operators and ground labourers.