By: Anthony Bwalya
Other than having conveyed my sincere condolences to the Mulenga family through my friend Choolwe Mulenga, I have also sort permission through him, to make reference to his beloved late sister Dr. Abigail Mulenga in my discussion.
Let me mention for the record, that this is not a politicization of Dr. Abigail Mulenga’s death, nor is it an attempt to interfere with the family’s grieving process. Dr. Mulenga gave her life for all of us. She died serving the country and the people she loved very much.
The best way to honour her life is to speak freely about the system she served. The same system that failed her.
Even when the system failed to pay her salary for Two (2) months, she continued to work diligently and with dedication. She is not the only one.
Yet in her final moments of need, the system failed her. We all failed her.
Because what Dr. Mulenga went through in her final moments of life, is precisely what thousands of ordinary people go through on an everyday basis – crying out to a system that has no regard for the suffering of ordinary people.
When Dr. Mulenga needed painkillers the most, the hospital could not provide her with painkillers. When Dr. Mulenga needed a physician the most, when she was unable to help herself, the family had to beg for a physician to see her.
As we continue to have this difficult but necessary discussion, there are millions of Zambians who need life-saving medical assistance but the system just cannot help them.
Abigail died begging for her life.
My own father, even after his life had deteriorated, the system could not give him critical pain management drugs to make him comfortable in his final moments. He too, like many ordinary people, died begging for his life.
But when all of this is going on, we have the system acquitting a health Minister Dr. Chitalu Chilufya of corruption charges, a man who has always insisted that the public healthcare system works.
According to indictment records by the Anti Corruption Commission, Dr. Chilufya earned a whooping close to $700,000 (taking into account forex flactuations) on public sector payroll between 2013 and 2020. This is $100,000 per year ( or nearly $9,000 per month) on public sector payroll, the same payroll that was unable to pay Abigail her SMALL monthly salary for TWO months.
As we speak, Vice President Inonge Wina has been allowed to divert critical personnel from our public health institutions so that she can have her COVID19 situation monitored from home 24/7. This is when the country has seen a surge of COVID19 related BIDs of up to 500 per week! This is not a coincidence. It means our public healthcare system is failing and has no capacity to help ordinary people.
It is barely a month when Dr. Chilufya and the Ministry of Health came under scrutiny for having awarded a NON EXISTENT company a $17m tender to supply of kits, and today we hear that Cipla Uganda, biggest pharma in Uganda has suspended the export of life saving drugs to Zambia, among them ARVs, ACTs and Hepatitis medicines due to $12m of outstanding invoices.
Do not even mention the rats roaming the corridors of Kitwe Teaching Hospital because the real rats are walking the corridors of power undisturbed and protected.
Dr. Chilufya needs to resign from his position as health Minister because this is the man who has become incredibly wealthy at the expense of all of us, while presiding over a public health system that only works for people like Madam Inonge Wina, while failing hard working servants of the people like Dr. Abigail Mulenga.