Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
The medical drugs crisis that has hit the country shouldn't – nay, must not - be dismissed as ‘one of those things’.
This is a real national crisis, worse than those issues that sent one John Kapito toyi-toying in the streets. I mean, the currency devaluation and floatation and the attendant daily rising of commodity prices pale in the face of the medical drugs issue.
Look, the current hospital drugs crisis is not only real but deadly as well.
If truth be told, President Joyce Banda’s conspicuous absence in the wake of the growing crisis did not make her look good at all. As a self-styled champion of safe-motherhood, six innocent premature babies helplessly crammed on one bed should have stirred her into action.
It all started with some bold medical workers at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in the capital, Lilongwe, exposing the crumbling health-care system in an open letter to the President. The medics wrung their hands in the air, saying it broke their hearts to see patients dying en masse just because a simple gadget could not be found at the Capital City’s main referral hospital.
In their very frank open letter to the Malawi Inc. CEO, the medics at KCH essentially told the Banda administration that it was committing genocide – and infanticide - by denying its citizenry the most basic of medicines and medical care.
And the KCH expose opened a Pandora’s Box.
The KCH medics’ counterparts in Blantyre, at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QUECH), had their own array of ills. Even surgical gloves and cotton wool there were in short supply.
Then everyone else joined in the fray; all district hospitals from Kasungu to Balaka to Zomba had their own issues.
All health facilities in Malawi are in a mess - syringes, swabs, blood supply…everything is in short supply.
If Malawi was a well-organised country by the end of the week the country‘s health sector should have been officially declared a national disaster.
Look, all the headlines in the media this week had to do with something to do with health-care.
But the poignant picture in The Daily Times where not one - not two - but six tiny innocent little souls were crammed on one bed told the whole story; Malawi’s health sector was in shambles.
Where was the Matron-in-Chief then?
Joyce Banda was not ensconced in the Kamuzu Palace or Sanjika Palace; neither was she pursuing her hobby – playing Relief-Worker-in-Chief distributing 20 kilogrammes of maize to the vulnerable somewhere in Mchinji.
She was, in fact, some thousands of kilometres away - in South Korea - accepting some mundane, if not meaningless, honorary degree that would do nothing to those six little souls struggling to cling to life on that bed at KCH.
But to be fair to Abiti, the current health-care crisis shouldn't be attributed to her entirely. She inherited a crumbling health-care system falling apart under the weight of under-funding and massive corruption.
But now that she is the country’s CEO she has to stamp her authority on the system. She has to pursue all cases of corruption to their rightful conclusion. There are documented cases of drug pilferages but somehow the cases just fizzle away and the suspects are then re-instated to steal some more.
Perhaps all she has to do is to shuffle her cards right. She has to re-align her priorities. For example, how can a K30bn investment in farm-input subsidy programme be beneficial to a sick citizenry that cannot work the field?
The fertiliser subsidy thing has only worked to win massive votes for her predecessor without solving the perennial food shortage. Let Joyce Banda try directly save lives for once.
She might not gain votes for that, but she might save a life.
(c) The Maravi Post 2013