…new health minister also reveals staff would now be signing performance-based contracts.
Lekhetho Ntsukunyane and Limpho Sello
NEW Health Minister, ’Molotsi Monyamane, has vowed to crackdown on errant healthcare staff and also revealed the workers would now be required to sign “performance-based contracts” to ensure only those dedicated to serving the people remain in the ministry.
Dr Monyamane – a prominent medical doctor and former chairperson of the National University of Lesotho Council – was one of 34 ministers and deputies sworn-in by Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara at the Royal Palace on Monday this week in a new seven-party government led by Democratic Congress (DC) leader Pakalitha Mosisili.
Soon after taking oath of office, Dr Monyamane addressed his subordinates and for the first time, and made it clear that “politics” would not be tolerated among government healthcare workers, adding only those serious about serving the people should be in this critical arm of government.
Dr Monyamane—who was with his deputy Liteboho Kompi, and Principal Secretary (PS) Lefu Manyokole during Monday’s address at the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru—was unequivocal as he warned the workers to embrace the inevitable changes that would be brought by the DC, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and National Independent Party (NIP) government, which came to power after the 28 February 2015 snap election had resulted in a hung parliament.
“We are here to make changes in this country through what we call constitutional reforms so that we get things right from the beginning.
“Secondly, we have to change the attitude of government workers by getting rid of party politics within the civil service. To be in politics is not a bad thing. Each one of us supports a certain political party, and that is our right. But we should be able to leave politics outside our work environment; we should remember that we are where we are today because of the education we received through the sacrifice of our elders in the remotest villages of our country.
“They are the most disadvantaged people in this country, yet they sacrificed their all so that we are the professionals we are today. And now they need our service. These people, unlike you and me, can’t read and write, but they managed to educate us.
“Many of you believe you were able to go through tertiary school and complete your higher education because of Manpower (National Manpower Development Secretariat) bursaries. That is not true. Those people at grassroots level who are underprivileged and undermined so much, are the ones who paid taxes for us to be as sophisticated as we now seem to be. And I am here for them myself. I need to give back to them, and so do you.
“The first step which you and I are going to engage in, in the health sector is to work on the Public Health Bill of 2012, which clearly prescribes the mandate of this ministry. From now on, as we leave this place today, I don’t want to hear divisions among staff, the way you used to call each other support and technical staff. From now on, we are one family working together as employees of the Ministry of Health and above all, we are all public servants.
“We are going to have a proper structure and for that structure to operate properly, we need dedicated staff. We will have a functional structure through which we are going to know the responsibilities of every single one of us and each office that we have.
“This is not about whether people hold high qualifications or not. We know that we have highly qualified people in this ministry and we are grateful for that. But what is important here is the functions of each and every office that we have and whether those functions are realistic. The bottom line is we have to deliver our fundamental mandate which is universal access to healthcare.”
Dr Monyane further indicated “people on the ground” were complaining about the poor attitude of government healthcare staff and an equally appalling service, which he said should stop “immediately”.
“We are going to make sure that you all sign performance contracts starting with our PS here. My utmost request from you is service-delivery. If, for instance, you have five issues bothering your area of work, you should find means to tackle them and by the end of the month, you should report to us how you dealt with them. I am not interested in excuses. My job is going to be simple and that is put pressure on the PS because he is also the Chief Accounting Officer, to make sure that you deliver.
“Our offices will be open for you to come and state your concerns. But my office will not be a place for gossip and badmouthing others. I believe I am also a bad person in some way, so I won’t tolerate people coming to my office to talk bad about others. I am not interested in that. To all of you who still hold grudges, you should forgive each other and bury the hatchet now. We are not going to fire anybody because of his or her political affiliation. No. We are all Basotho, but your continued stay in this ministry will be based on how to conduct yourself professionally.”
The minister said the fact that Lesotho was finding it difficult to contain diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) could be a symptom of the poor service-delivery that he said people have been complaining about.
“These complaints have become prevalent and they should stop with immediate effect; staff members need to know why they are in this ministry, which is to serve the people with humility and professionalism.
“Lesotho ranks second behind Swaziland in the prevalence of HIV and TB and we cannot be proud of such a record. It means we have to fight this unfortunate situation and engage all stakeholders, including traditional healers and leaders, herbalists, and religious leaders.
“We have to look carefully at the budget we are being allocated by cabinet, and see if it is adequate for the task at hand. So my advice to you is you should bear in mind that if you wish to take an official trip elsewhere using public funds, what should first come into your mind is how that journey is going to benefit the poor people in need of health services.”
The minister also called on the staff to engage their private-sector counterparts to ensure improved service.
“We have to make use of our private-sector stakeholders. Let’s convince them to come and assist us deliver better services to our people. Our hospitals in the districts should operate to the satisfaction of the people they serve. And we can achieve this through working together with the private sector,” Dr Monyamane said.
The minister also spoke about the provision of services by outsiders to the ministry, which he said would be the responsibility of the PS.
“My mandate has nothing to do with tenders. I will not be dealing with tenders at all. There are people responsible for that and these include the Chief Accounting Officer. There are structures and everything has to be done transparently. You are all important. There is no one who is better than the other here.
“From now on, I am expecting that the communities we serve should put more pressure on us to deliver. I have never heard of a civil society group active enough to put pressure on health workers in this country to deliver. I propose that you go and form one so that we can really pull-up our socks. We need external pressure. We will do our utmost in supporting you, our workers, with resources. We will not be working in isolation from other ministries. And we are also going to seek assistance from retired midwives so they could come and mentor nurses and doctors because that is what we need.”
On her part, Ms Kompi, who is a Lesotho Congress for Democracy Member of Parliament and former Education and Training deputy minister, said: “From today, I am here to work with you in making sure that health services reach destinations where people need them. I know that you have tried your best to provide them but we have a responsibility ahead of us and that is to ensure we go beyond our previous efforts.
“I have been appointed here because there is trust that I can work together with you in making sure that we deliver services efficiently. As a team, we are going to make sure that government policies are adhered to. But for us to be successful in our mission, we should first satisfy your needs as staff. If you are not happy workers, it means you will not be able to perform. I am neither medical doctor nor nurse, which means I don’t know how to take care of someone who is not feeling well. Mine will be just to monitor you as the medical experts to do your work on time and make sure the resources you need are available. Let’s all dedicate ourselves to moving the health sector forward.”