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Health crisis calls for desperate measures

Honourable Folks, Kamuzu Central Hospital director, Dr. Nordeen Alide must be a bureaucrat to boot. When 15 doctors from the hospital wrote an open letter to the President and the people of Malawi, exposing the heart-rending crisis that has rocked health delivery services at the hospital, he felt they acted in haste.

They should have waited to raise their issue at a meeting the PS for Health will hold with all specialists from the country’s major hospitals on 7th February, he opined when contacted by Nation on Sunday for his take on the issue.

Really?

Shouldn’t the hospital director instead be worried about the business-as-usual response to the crisis of the PS and other bureaucrats at the Capital Hill?

Just how exactly will the 7th February meeting with specialists from hospitals which are equally in dire straits address the acute shortage of IV fluids, antibiotics, syringes, sutures, plaster, etc., which has already resulted in needless deaths from treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia at KCH, a referral hospital for the entire Central Region with a population of 5.5 million?

Desperate situations call for desperate measures. The concerned doctors say KCH has had the crisis “for the past few months” during which they have tried to solicit funding from families and friends while, at the same time, drawing the attention of authorities to the situation in which the lifesavers have turned out to be helpless witnesses of needless deaths.

That’s why they now want JB to know and come to their aid. Hasn’t she, at the click of the finger, facilitated the unsealing of Kasungu District Hospital pharmacy when irate suppliers clamped it with thick stainless steel bars after the hospital failed to pay for over K90 million supplies of drugs and other essentials?

Wasn’t it JB who single-handedly bought and distributed bags and bags of maize flour to the hungry in various parts of Malawi? Didn’t she even promise that should the drought persist this season, she is ready to continue providing food handouts?

Whose then is the most appropriate door to knock when precious lives of potential voters and their children are being lost to malaria, diarrhoea and other easily curable diseases which, if it were not for the abject poverty rocking Malawi, the majority of us would have preferred to treat with medicine bought from a nearby grocery shop?

Should medical specialists be called to a meeting with the PS to discuss ngongole hospitals owe drug vendors? I don’t believe that is their line of specialisation, or is it?

Few weeks ago, when Weekend Nation reported that lives of Malawians were at risk following JB’s decision to stop the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) from fast-tracking the procurement of drugs for cholera, malaria and diabetes, the spin-doctor for the Ministry of Health downplayed the threat, saying the hospitals had the drugs alright.

Amazing, isn’t it that the nice-to-hear politically correct rebuttal was being made when even KCH, which is within a walking distance from Capital Hill where the PS for Health and his spokesperson are based, had its doctors scavenging all over the place for plasters, let alone malaria drugs!

Now, we are told that virtually all public health centres within the Capital City are drug-dehydrated and patients are crammed at the poorly funded referral centre which is itself crying for help. Not only that, we also know that what is happening at KCH is replicated, albeit in varying degrees, in all referral and district hospitals. In turn, many public health centres and clinics, which look to district hospitals for their supplies, are also dry.

It is my view that such a crisis would have necessitated a high-level meeting of those entrusted with sovereign authority to find the only solution—funds with which to buy the drugs and stock our hospitals. We are talking about a situation that puts lives at risk here!

It is a pity though, that while more and more public revenue is wasted through corruption and wasteful spending, public hospitals are becoming places where our people are dying of curable diseases. We are told that the annual allocation for drugs at KCH is only enough for a three-month supply. Where, I wonder, is that adequately funded public hospital?

Yet, government officials are quiet on or dismissive of the claim that 30 percent of our revenue goes down the drain due to corruption, inefficiency and botched contracts, when almost every day there are stories of people, big and small, ripping off the economy?

As you are reading this article, elsewhere within the same paper, there is a depressing story which quotes government officials as saying it appears the bad guys have formed a syndicate which easily beats systems and siphons millions out of public coffers.

Unless the Anti-Corruption Bureau is given teeth to bite the corrupt within the government, unless there is a law on asset declaration which is enforced without fear or favour, the poor will be dying while the rich—including the corrupt—fly abroad to be treated for a headache.

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