Written by Patseni Mauka
One of the things that UTM’s presidential candidate Dr Saulos Chilima has consistently been passionate about is the need to revolutionize the health sector in Malawi. Chilima and UTM have promised to construct modern district hospitals in Chikwawa, Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe, Dowa, Mzimba and Rumphi in order to decongest the existing central hospitals.
UTM has also promised to construct mental health hospitals attached to Mzuzu, Kamuzu and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospitals. The party has also promised to build and rehabilitate health facilities to improve quality. Chilima has been passionate about UTM’s promise of increasing the range of diagnostic tests and super specialized services such as cardiology done by our hospitals in order to significantly reduce referrals to regional hospitals and outside Malawi.
Those blessed with good health and have never been seriously ill, might find it difficult to appreciate Chilima’s passion to revolutionize Malawi’s health care system. But fellow Malawians are dying of treatable illness due to poor health facilities, equipment and inadequate health personal.
In June 2014, The Nation Newspaper reported a sad story of a 27-year-old woman, referred to Chintheche Hospital from Liwuzi Health Centre, who died due to post-partum hemorrhage. The woman was reportedly supposed to travel 40 kilometers to Nkhata Bay District Hospital for an operation, but unfortunately, she did not make it. She died on arrival at the hospital. Chintheche Rural Hospital is 40 kilometers south of Nkhata Bay. The hospital, which caters for 25 000 people, does not have a functional operating theatre.
In March this year, The Nation Newspaper also reported about a 25-year-old woman diagnosed with heart failure who was discharged from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) to wait for death at home, unless she gets specialized treatment outside the country. Linda Thuzi was told by doctors at QECH that her case requires surgery either in South Africa or India. With an unemployed husband, she just went home and is waiting for help from well-wishers.
Referral hospitals in Malawi lack consistent basic services like CT scan and MRI. Sometimes doctors have had to complain in the media in order to get help for their patients. Regional hospitals operate without essential equipment and drugs, yet they serve millions of Malawians. An example is Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) which serves the central region and a population of approximately 5 million people.
Last month, the media reported that employees of Nkhotakota District Hospital had to petition the District Commissioner (DC) to intervene and address the problems at the hospital. In their petition, they mentioned transport woes and persistent water supply challenges. The hospital which reportedly serves a population of about 400 000, can only now afford one meal per day for its in-patients. The sad stories of our collapsing health care system are numerous.
Malawi needs a passionate leader like Chilima to solve its problems including the health care system. When Chilima talks about health sector problems and suggested solutions, you know that he knows what he is talking about and is determined to do something about it. It’s not just empty rhetoric that we hear from other leaders that just read scripts provided by their strategists. With a qualified health and development specialist as his running mate, Chilima will deliver on his promises.