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MBABANE – In just six months, doctors and other health practitioners have been paid an astounding E54.3 million for on-call and standby allowances.

This is according to claims which were submitted by the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Public Service where they sought permission to make payment to the health practitioners. The money in total is E54 395 884.75. These were for on-call and standby duties which took place between April 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017. Investigations by this publication revealed that the money was divided between about 352 health practitioners who included doctors, nurses, anaesthetist, radiographers and laboratory technicians. The payment of the allowances was approved by Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Public Service Evart Madlopha through a memo dated November 14, 2017. These are the same group of medical staffers who recently ran to court contending that government wanted to scrap Establishment Circular No.7 of 1993, which allowed that such allowances be paid at 90 per cent of their basic salary.

In a newly-proposed circular, government wants to pay on-call or standby doctors 60 per cent of their basic salaries with the rest of the health practitioners getting 40 per cent. According to the memo, Madlopha stated that following the submission of the on-call claims by the Health ministry on October 27, 2017, the Public Service ministry had since checked the claims and made adjustments where necessary. “Authority is hereby granted to pay on-call and standby allowances for officers from the ministry of health as per submitted list,” reads the memo which was copied to the accountant general (AG). According to the claims some of the doctors received amounts of over E400 000 per person.
The lump sum of the E54.3 million went to doctors and health officers who are based at the Mbabane Government Hospital where E18.5 million was paid out in claims. These were followed by claims from the Hlatikhulu Government Hospital where E7.3 million was dished out by government for the allowances.

Some matron and nursing sisters received figures like E137 516 and E169 426 respectively for working overtime during that six month period. These allowances are over and above their basic monthly salaries. At the Mbabane Government Hospital alone, those under the department of anaesthetics were paid a total of E1 005 696.41 with the highest receiving about E202 000. Doctors at the National Tuberculosis (TB) Centre were paid over E2.4 million while those based at the National Psychiatric Hospital in Manzini claimed about E1.3million. Officers at the Blood Bank also had a share of the cake as they submitted claims worth E511 509, which would be shared in varying amounts between the six who are stationed there. The highest claim was E118 234.64. In the Biomed Department government paid E346 353.70 among eight officers based at the Mbabane Government Hospital. At Sithobela Health Centre, government paid over E1.4 million to doctors who are station there and are on-call. The records reflect that a majority of the doctors are foreigners in all the health facilities and were the highest paid.                

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