One of the patients in dire need of help at KCH
Problems at the Central Region’s referral hospital Kamuzu Central, have reached a crisis stage, with medical staff there revealing that over 40 people die in a week due to curable ailments amid scarcity of the most basic hospital requirements, The Nation has established.
While one doctor described how pathetic the situation is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a nurse recounted about 14 deaths in a day as her worst experience ever.
The ICU, which accommodates three patients at one go, struggles with over six patients wanting to share the equipment, such that medics say “we are having to sacrifice some patients for lack of alternatives.”
In some cases people meant for ICU are being referred to Highly Dependence Unit (HDU) where their lives can hardly be sustained and end up dying, according to doctors.
Meanwhile, the hospital had to offload over 40 bodies from the mortuary on Monday this week that had overstayed because the facility could not afford to hire Lilongwe City Council (LCC) personnel to dig mass graves to bury mostly prisoners and accident victims who could not be identified since February to create space.
KCH – a referral hospital which caters for at least five million people within the Central Region and Northern Region – has been struggling to contain the number of patients being referred there due to insufficient medical and other basic supplies including detergents for laundry.
Head of Surgery Department Dr Carlos Varela said he has hopelessly witnessed emergency patients dying because the hospital cannot operate on them as “we do not even have materials to close the wound”.
In a day, KCH operates on a minimum of 20 patients and that number has had to be reduced to at least five a day with the hospital sending some critically ill back home without surgery.
“We are losing a lot of lives and we can’t help them, not that we don’t want, but we don’t have the materials. Sometimes we keep the patients in the hope that we’ll find materials, but they just get worse and they die,” said Varela.
A theatre nurse Regina Ndelemani talked of a situation where some cancer patients “visit us much as five times the theatre (for surgery) but as a result of lack of medication, we keep sending them back.”
“But at that time cancer is spreading, most of them just die like that,” she said.
There are many of these sorry stories on the faces and mouths of almost all medical personnel at KCH except that they are gagged to speak of the horror there.
But a look into record books at KCH showed that the number of deaths going to the mortuary is on the increase and this is mostly due to insufficient hospital supplies.
A closer look showed that on average, five people were dying per day, but there were two worst days in October; October 1 and 5 when 13 and 14 people died respectively.
Hospital staff who petitioned Parliament over the matter this week attributed the problems to reduced budget, saying “four years ago, we would get between K80 and K100 million per month, but now the figure has been trimmed to K26 million.”
“This basically caters for bills, food and that’s it,” said Varela.
On his part, hospital director Noor Alide was lost for words to discuss the matter only, saying “the situation is pathetic”.
On Monday this week, a truckload of bodies headed for the graveyard in Lilongwe, including Likuni and Biwi, where residents saw four bodies being dumped in one grave.
Meanwhile, some cold rooms at KCH are also faulty, making the situation even worse by congesting the remaining one with bodies lying all over the floor.
Health Minister Gotani Hara on Wednesday said government is working on ensuring the supply of basic needs for the hospital saying the problem is due to a track which is stack at Beira port.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Godfrey Kamanya has apologised to hundreds of angry KCH staff over the remarks he made in Phalombeon Wednesday.
Kamanya during the installation of Senior Chief Chiwalo on Wednesday branded the hospital staff who gave government a 48-hour deadline to sort out the problem of resources as members of the Democratic Progressive Movement (DPP).
“You see as politicians, we have to be very cautious, so when we heard that, the petition had been received by Mwanza Central Member of Parliament (MP) Nicholas Dausi, we wondered if the petition was going to be handed to the relevant authorities because naturally, the procedure is that in Parliament, it’s the Speaker. However, I am sorry, please forgive me,” he said.
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