OVER the years Zambia has witnessed an enormous growth of the private health sector.
We have seen a number of private hospitals and clinics sprouting out across the country.
This is a good development because the private health sector is a key supplement to the public health care system which is inadequate due to the rapid population growth and disease burden.
The private health institutions therefore provide an alternative for citizens, especially those who can afford the medical fees.
Some private hospitals also offer specialised treatment and provide a less congested environment for patients.
While we acknowledge that private hospitals are doing a commendable job by supplementing Government’s efforts in the provision of quality and specialised health care, we are concerned that some of these health institutions are sharing the same medical personnel with public health institutions.
It is common to find medical personnel on government payroll working in private hospitals and clinics.
What is even more unfortunate is that some of these medical personnel give priority to their temporary engagements with private hospitals at the expense of their employer – Government.
Time and again we have heard how medical specialists are reportedly unavailable to attend to patients in public health institutions, while their presence is almost, if not guaranteed, in private hospitals.
Some are also reported to be in the habit of referring patients to private clinics they are engaged with.
This is indeed unprofessional and abuse of government time and resources.
We therefore expect all medical personnel to adhere to Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya’s caution not to abuse government time by engaging in private practice.
Dr Chilufya, who addressed the Resident Doctors Association of Zambia (RDAZ) members in Lusaka recently, is not happy that some medical personnel are double crossing Government by engaging in private practice during work hours.
“We encourage private practice because this indicates that there is growth in the health sector and it promotes competition, but if you are on government payroll, it is not acceptable to waste government time to attend to your private endeavours,” Dr Chitalu said.
The act by some medical personnel to engage in private practice on government time is indeed daylight robbery and should be condemned in the strongest terms.
It is immoral for any medical personnel on Government payroll to prioritise private engagement at the expense of offering quality health service to the poor masses who cannot afford medical fees demanded by private hospitals.
Our medical personnel should remember that they have a moral obligation to justify their continued existence on government payroll.
Besides, medical personnel in public institutions should remember that their profession apart from being a source of livelihood is also a noble calling which requires total commitment.
If some medical personnel feel Government is giving them a raw deal, it is more honourable to resign and join the private sector, to give an opportunity to those who have a heart to serve the poor.
In an instance that medical personnel is found using government time to engage in private practice, relevant authorities should not hesitate to fire such individuals.
This is the only way to send a strong message to those abusing government time and resources.
Our medical personnel, like any other employee, have a moral obligation to account for every minute they are paid for.