GOVERNMENT hospitals are poorly serviced by medical personnel who spend more time in private clinics where they refer patients. The situation has forced government to ban medical personnel under the public service from working in any private institution or drawing two salaries as this was against the law. Chapter V, article 86 relating to salaries prohibits one from drawing more than one salary. “No officer may draw a salary for more than one post at the same time,” the article reads. According to hospital sources some medical personnel were taking advantage of lack of monitoring to spend man hours meant for government hospitals, in private clinics. The source said the practice was common in most hospitals where patients were given long waiting periods to access surgical services yet hospital theatres were not even being used on some days because people were busy in private clinics. And an opposition leader has said there was nothing wrong with government putting brakes on medical personnel abandoning hospitals where they are drawing huge salaries for private practice. 3rd Liberation Movement leader, Enock Tonga, said government was within its rights to implement policies to save lives and ensure efficiency in the administration of hospitals. He however, advised government not to deny medical personnel extra income if it was done in their free time. Government, he said, should monitor the medical personnel to ensure that they are adhering to conditions of service in as far patient care was concerned and make decisions in the interest of the nation. “Medical personnel should deliver to expectations because they are drawing salaries from public resources, “he said. “We should all work together to use whatever means to ensure service delivery. Government should set standards to monitor how they work and if there are any shortcomings, those found wanting can be dealt with,” Mr Tonga said. Hospital insiders have also complained that the waiting period for patients to see specialist doctors in government is unnecessarily long because some doctors are only there for morning sessions in most cases. The sources also explained that medical personnel were free to moonlight in their free time but not during the periods they should be in government hospitals. The apparent abuse of the system is what has led to government decision to ban use of government man hours in private clinics. “Hospitals have been abandoned and what government has done is only right. We cannot have people drawing salaries for work that they are doing mostly in private hospitals and spending a few hours in government hospitals,” a hospital source told the Daily Nation. Medical personnel would now be expected to put in the normal hours in government health institutions and can do other work in their own free time. The source further said medical personnel had themselves to blame for choosing to spend most of their time in private clinics while patients were put on long waiting lists. However, the Zambia Union of Nurses Organisation (ZUNO) has demanded that the Ministry of Health should withdraw a circular banning public health workers from working in private hospitals to avoid industrial unrest in the sector. ZUNO general secretary Michelo Fray said that they were aware of their conditions of service which did not prohibit them from engaging in extra projects to raise their income earnings. And ZMA secretary general Francis Mupeta alleged the directive was meant to intimidate and frustrate the medical workers despite their enormous contribution to the sector. Dr Mupeta said it was clear proof of lack of appreciation of the health profession despite what they put in to save the face of the limping status in the area of human resource. “Our position on the issue still remains the same as that given in 2015 that, ‘there is no law that forbids citizens to have duo practice in public and private. However, we take great exception to members who do not fulfil their man-hours in either public or private institutions and thus create the conflict and loss of trust in the accountability framework’. “Further, we wish to condemn the directive as ill-intended as it disregards what obtains in practice,” he said. He expressed concern at the high patient-doctor ratio in Zambia which he charged resulted in the failure to attain health sector targets such as maternal mortality, infant and child mortality.