As part of its efforts aimed at improving service delivery in all sectors (including health) in the country, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Malawi - through its Human Rights Support Project - has joined hands with the Office of the Ombudsman and the Ministry of Health to establish an accountability platform in health facilities across the country.
The platform, named as Hospital Ombudsman - which will prioritise vulnerable populations to ensure that they are not left behind in the attainment of the United Nations (UN’s) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - will provide hospital users with a platform to lodge complaints and raise concerns on challenges faced in accessing health services.
Through the platform, these complaints - once lodged - will be investigated with an aim of getting solutions for initiating changes - where necessary – in a bid to improve the country’s Health Service Delivery System.
The official launch of this platform, which took place on 30th June 2018 at Kabudula Community Hospital in the central region district of Lilongwe, was - among the crucial stakeholders - attended by UNDP officials, development partners, government officials, legislature and hospital users from the surrounding communities who are the principal beneficiaries of the initiative.
The establishment and launch of the initiative comes as the public sector in Malawi - specifically the health sector - continues to face a number of challenges in the delivery of its services, which are not limited to misconduct of public officials, low levels of public awareness on justice processes when one faces injustices, abuse of authority and negligence.
These challenges - as per the observation of the authorities - have been undermining human rights which are central to the attainment of the SDGs.
“Malawians have the right to be heard when they are not satisfied with services they get from the public sector. Accountability is therefore an important part of service provision by the public sector,” said Martha Chizuma, The Ombudsman for Malawi.
Added Chizumira: “This platform will ensure that issues of misconduct in health service delivery are investigated and resolved. No life should be lost due to negligence and misconduct.”
In a separate interview, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Maria Jose Torres described the innovation as very critical in ensuring accountability in public service delivery in the country.
“The attainment of national development targets is dependent on having an effective and efficient public sector that provides quality services to the people. It is our hope that this initiative will be a success and that it will be replicated in other sectors, thereby contributing to the attainment of the SDG16 which is on peace, justice and strong institutions,” said Ms. Torres.
Spicing up the launch of the Hospital Ombudsman Platform were traditional dances, sketches and pieces of poetry that carried similar key messages that called for the promotion of quality health services in Malawi.
Additionally, the hospital users were encouraged to speak out on any injustices faced whilst seeking medical care at various health facilities across the country.
On the other hand, Finious Banda - in his poet recital - urged Malawians to desist from harassing and physically abusing health workers whenever they are dissatisfied with services provided at their respective health facilities.
The launch of the Hospital Ombudsman at Kabudula health facility could not have come at a better day than 30th June 2018 to Julia Mateyo, who is expecting to deliver her third child at the health facility soon.
At the launch of the initiative, the heavily-pregnant Julia, defied all odds to dance as a way to express her profound joy towards the establishment of the Hospital Ombudsman Platform in her community.
As she danced, the 30-year-old mother of two expressed optimism that the launched platform will encourage more women to give birth at the hospital, a development she observed would lower cases of maternal complications in Kabudula area and beyond.
“We hear stories of nurses who abandon expectant mothers in labour just because of WhatsApp (a Mobile Phone Instant Messaging Application). These stories cause a lot of panic among expectant women, a development that force them to give birth at home; in the process, putting their lives at risk whenever there are complications during delivery,” said Ms. Mateyo.