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It must be win-win solution

MINISTER of Health Chitalu Chilufya deserves commendation for suspending a circular that banned public health workers from working in private facilities.Dr Chilufya has proved to be a listening minister because going ahead to implement the ban without thorough dialogue was not going to be in the interest of the country.
The withdrawal of the circular now sets a tone for dialogue between Government and representatives of the public health workers.
In banning the public health workers from working in private facilities, there was no dialogue between the employer and employees.
Both parties have genuine reasons which have to be tabled to come up with a win-win situation for the benefit of the general public.
It should be noted that Government made the decision to allow public health workers to start working in private facilities following numerous strikes by public health workers over poor salaries and other conditions of service.
Government did not want public health workers to live in squalor, a condition which contributed to brain drain to neighbouring countries and the United Kingdom.
Public health workers, especially doctors, who are trained at a huge cost to the treasury, trekked to neighbouring countries where conditions of service were attractive.
To stem the brain drain as well as mitigate the public health workers’ meagre income, Government allowed public health workers to legally practise elsewhere to make up for the gap.
At the same time, public health workers should not abdicate their main role of spending more time in government facilities.
Evidence suggests that some public health workers spent more time in private health facilities while drawing a full salary from Government.
That is why Government decided to issue a circular banning public health workers from working on a part-time basis in private institutions.
The situation was seemingly getting out of hand and citizens needing medical attention were suffering because of this negligence.
It is not the first time that Government has taken such a move in public interest.
In 2006, it banned the provision of Academic Production Unit (APU) classes in basic schools.
The move was initially condemned by some stakeholders because they felt it would plunge the education system into a crisis.
But Government took that move because teachers focused more on APU because it was a money-spinner, neglecting their core duty.
Regular classes were virtually abandoned as more teachers became glued to APU, knowing too well that their salaried income was intact.
Two years down the line, there is overwhelming evidence that the banning of APU has restored sanity to the public education system.
More recently, Government banned private tuitions in public schools because teachers invested more time in part-time work.
Teachers’ unions condemned the ban on tuitions, but with time, it has been found to be a good decision because teachers have put in more effort in regular classes.
Similarly, representatives of public health workers should use this window during the withdrawal of the circular that banned its members from working in private facilities to dialogue with Government to find a lasting solution.
On the other hand, the onus is on Government to prove that there are health workers in public facilities who earn double salaries, which is obviously against the law.
As the two parties dialogue, they should find out how the issue is managed in other countries in the region and beyond so that they can pick some good practices.
The objective should be to improve health care service delivery while at the same time ensure that the welfare of medical personnel is taken care of.