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Health Services Board under fire for mismanaging funds

Health Services Board under fire for mismanaging funds. The board appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Health that was chaired by legislator Doubt Ndiweni who is the current acting chairperson.

The Health Services Board came under fire from parliamentarians who demanded an explanation on alleged misappropriation of funds, failure to negotiate with their employees to end the industrial action and to show documentary proof of their engagements with the ministry to obtain reforms for health workers.

Representing the Health Services Board was its Executive Chairperson Dr Paulinus Sikhosana, his vice-chairperson Professor Auxilia Chideme-Munodawafa, Executive Director Ruth Kaseke, board members Sefelipelo Bhebhe and Dr Stanley Mungofa as the General Manager Angelbert Mbengwa.

In the question and answer session, the committee quizzed Sikhosana to comment on the video that circulated on various platforms on social media where health workers were demonstrating at one of the local hospitals and in that video, new top of the range was appearing, a huge disparity between workers that are demonstrating and high range vehicles was parked at the hospital.

Sikhosana was also questioned on what his board plans to do for its employees who in his presentation, are feeling neglected due to low wages. There was also reference to a visit by the committee to Mpilo Hospital where the senior doctors expressed concerns that they aren’t being consulted by the board with regards to the terms and conditions, how hospitals are run, about corruption within the health sector.

Clarity was also sought over the successive recruitment, the criteria used, and the composition of staff recruited, how the board managed to lure the areas of speciality, communication tools used and whether the current industrial action involves the newly recruited workers.

“In terms of conditions of service for health workers, indeed I will agree that the conditions of work for health workers and everybody else in the country aren’t satisfactory because of the economic performance of the country, they can’t be comfortable when the rest of the country isn’t.

“The issue of vehicles issued, the vehicles that government-issued to the Health Services Board, they are Discovery 6, two vehicles out of six commissioners and in the same context, the conditions of service for HSB board members are standing with those of other commissions, there are more than 50 discoveries in the Government, all the commissioners have been allocated those vehicles and its not like we have been favoured, we were the last to be allocated.

“It is also important that as a board, which is an employer whose conditions of service are akin with those of the public service, the previous boards were last allocated cars in 2012 so the government has legacy issues to allocate cars to those previous board members,” he said. He further explained that health workers in the video where at the cars to highlight their grievances.

“Health workers are neglected, but as a board, we have been trying to improve the conditions of service within the available fiscal space that treasury provides, we negotiate and discuss with the health forum and they indicate their grievances and make their suggestions in terms of what they think is an appropriate adjustment.

“These are taken to treasury and treasury in their own wisdom as well as looking at the fiscal space and the resources available, they give the board a mandate, for example, they say they have so much money to allocate to the health sector for adjustment for conditions of service,” he explained.

With regards to the consultation of senior doctors on their remuneration and improvement of conditions of service, Sikhosana said there is Health Apex, a forum used by the health workers to negotiate, and senior doctors are supposed to be represented there but over the years they have relegated it to junior doctors.

“The senior doctors have been relegated to insignificance, we have had engagements with their new association but the Bulawayo people usually leave it to the Harare people who are close to the corridors of power,” he said.

With regards to recruitment, Sikhosana handed over to Ruth Kaseke, the executive director.

“When we started this massive recruitment in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was important that we respond to the requirements of the disease and these cut across all health professionals, doctors at various specialist levels, nurses with their specialist levels like ICU, infection control, environmental officers because of the active role they play, pharmacists, issues of hygiene and infection control are critical.

“We were focusing on ports of entry, we have created health quarantine centres and deal with their pre-conditions, we are providing additional staff to our hospitals,” she said.

Sikhosana was further quizzed if he was agreeing with the general consensus amongst health professionals and the citizens at large that the Health Service Board has become one of those commissions that aren’t adding any value to services that are required in this country by indicating that they are powerless in instituting any changes in the health sector.

He was asked if the existence of the Health Service Board is still necessary in Zimbabwe under the circumstances before being asked to produce documentary evidence that indeed they have been pushing the ministry to implement meaningful changes.

Sikhosana didn’t have the documents but assured the board that they will be served to the clerk of the committee.

Source – H-Metro

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