UTH in management wrangle


UNIVERSITY Teaching Hospital staff has accused health minister Dr Joseph Kasonde of sending managing director Lackson Kasonka on forced transfer to Ndola over business interests.

But Dr Kasonde says the allegations are unfounded and further denied that although he knows Dr Ben Chirwa who has taken over as UTH managing director, he did not favour him into the job.

Meanwhile, Dr Kasonka who was given a transfer letter over two months ago, says he has not started work at Ndola Central Hospital because he is on leave.

According to senior members of staff at UTH who sought anonymity, Dr Kasonde has business interests in the operations of the government-funded health institution.

“We were all shocked that the health minister could take things so personal and even push for Dr Kasonka’s transfer to Ndola. But again, we are not that shocked because the minister wants to have someone who is not strict at the helm. We all know that Dr Chirwa and Dr Kasonde are friends and that is why the minister decided to transfer our MD. We know that the minister wants to benefit from the hospital,” one of the senior employees said.

“What people need to know is that the minister is a major shareholder of Apex University, and what he wanted was for students from there to be doing their practical lessons at UTH at no cost. The standard practice is that whichever university or college seeks to do practical lessons at UTH pays at least something for small things like gloves and other services. So Dr Kasonka was very strict on this rule and I think it did not go down well with the minister. It is not fair. He is a minister and what he needed to do was to encourage our MD to continue on the same path, not transferring him.”

Another member of staff wondered why Dr Chirwa had been taken to UTH as managing director when he had failed to transform Central Board of Health and National AIDS Council where he was.

“Why bring an old man when he failed to manage CBoH and NAC? What is he going to do at UTH? I don’t even understand why a person who has served as director at CBoH and NAC could be brought to UTH as managing director. What is happening now is that all the projects that Dr Kasonka initiated have been stopped. Dr Kasonka ran UTH as a real public service institution with motivated staff, which also benefited patients,” said the sources.

“But now we no longer talk about issues of cleanliness because the measures that Dr Kasonka put in place are being discarded. I will give you an example, when Dr Kasonka was director; the hospital linen used to be washed every day. The people employed to wash were being given lunch and transport allowances. But that has been stopped because they say there is no money anymore.”

When contacted for a comment, Dr Kasonde described the allegations as ‘interesting’.

“It is an interesting story because I am hearing everything for the first time. I have nothing to do with transfers because that is the business of the Public Service Commission. Ministers do not get involved in the transfers of civil servants. I have not been involved in the transfer,” Dr Kasonde said.

Asked whether he was involved in the appointment of Dr Chirwa as UTH managing director because he was his friend, Dr Kasonde said: “Again I deny. I had no part in the movement of Dr Chirwa to UTH. I have known him yes, and I would wish to be [his friend]. Those who know me know that when I came to Zambia, that was when he (Dr Chirwa) was moving out of CBoH. I deny being involved in his movement to UTH.”

He further said the allegations about wanting Apex University students to do their practical lessons for free were not true.

Asked whether he was aware of the changes that Dr Chirwa had made from the time he was appointed UTH director, Dr Kasonde said: “There again I say I am not aware. I hope you gather more knowledge because knowledge is power. I will keep it in mind so that as I work I will know what is happening.”

Meanwhile, Dr Kasonka confirmed having received the transfer letter but refused to comment further.

“Yes I have been transferred to Ndola and I went to report but at the moment I am on leave,” said Dr Kasonka.