Madisi Hospital’s lost glory

When philanthropist Napoleon Dzombe donated drugs worth over K2 million to Madisi Mission Hospital, people in surrounding areas were very happy. And one could understand why.

Opened in 1964 as a dispensary, today it is an important hospital.

“People would come from as far as Chitipa and Mzuzu for treatment at this hospital,” says hospital administrator Sosten Makoko.

The health centre was expanded into a hospital in 1974 and by 2002, management changed hands from white missionaries to Malawians. Now it is under the Lilongwe Archdiocese.

Madisi Hospital is at Madisi Trading Centre in Dowa District. The trading centre has notable structures such as Madisi Secondary School and the M1 Road that connects the South and North of Malawi.

The hospital is also the birth place for Dzombe, an accomplished Malawian whose contribution to agriculture has reached all the corners of the country.

“I decided to give back to a place where I was born,” he says.

The hospital’s management said since the departure of the white missionaries, services at the hospital are poor because donors no longer support the facility. 

Currently, the hospital which serves an estimated population of 40 000, has two battered ambulances, the oldest of which is eight years old. The vehicle’s tyres are worn out and it requires pushing to start the engine.

“But we have no alternative, we keep on using it,” Makoko says.

The hospital walls need redecorating. At the back of the premises is the hospital’s incinerator, which looks archaic and poses a health hazard to the surrounding communities.

“This incinerator was built in the 1960s, it is outdated. It is small and when burning garbage such as bandages, they easily fly out into people’s homes,” Makoko explains.

There is no wall to separate the hospital from the surrounding villages. From the incinerator to a nearby house, it is about three metres and children are usually seen playing there.

“Yet the incinerator produces toxic fumes. Mind you we burn things like papers, bandages and drugs so people inhale these. What is needed is for us to build a new one with a longer chimney, but also on a different site,” says the administrator.

Separating the houses and the incinerator is a busy footpath. This path extends to the front of a small building which is used as a mortuary.

“This is our mortuary. It is very small. Initially, it was designed to keep bodies for 24 hours only, but it now works as a mortuary. Sadly, it can only take one body at a time, but there are times we are forced to pile up three bodies or so,” says Makoko.

He explains that dogs sometimes cause trouble since the mortuary has no refrigeration.

“Bodies decompose faster due to heat, and they stink. So the dogs come and attempt to dig a hole so that they can go inside and eat the body. This is also because the door is short and dogs easily peep from its bottom,” acting medical officer Philip Kasawala says.

Next to the mortuary is a hospital generator, which is also very old.

“Sometimes we are in persistent blackouts and we run out of fuel. We are forced to abandon an operation as there is nothing we can do,” he added.

From a once drug stocked hospital, Madisi now struggles to source drugs. Traditional Authority Chakhadza says the hospital has lost its glory.

“In the past, people used to travel from afar because they knew they would find expert doctors and any type of drug. But now, the hospital is constantly out of drugs and people are going elsewhere,” says the chief.

This has impacted on the income-generation capacity of the hospital as fewer clients mean reduced income to replenish the pharmacy or to hire and retain staff.

“We have about 200 workers but no medical doctor since the last one left a few years back. Whenever we advertise for this post, less people apply and when recruited they say they cannot stay here because it is a village,” says Makoko.

The hospital currently spends K2 million a month on drugs and medical equipment.

“This is the amount that Dzombe has donated. We are grateful to him,” indicated the administrator.

Dzombe said he sourced the consignment from Nu Skin Enterprise of the United States of America.

The hospital’s deputy matron Olive Mkandawire says when the drug situation gets worse, they are forced to sell anti-malaria drugs and use the money to buy drugs for maternal health instead of replenishing the pharmacy.

As January comes to an end, so too is the consignment Dzombe donated. The joy for the people of Madisi is short lived.

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