Two survivors of a car accident in critical condition have just arrived at the hospital.
The doctors’ judgment is for the two to go for immediate surgery; however, the hospital only has facilities and resources that can allow only one person at a time.
In those seconds, a doctor has to decide who has to live and who has to die. This is not deciding which department gets tonner for their printers, it is a decision about death or life.
It is understandable in a war zone with limited supplies, but when this happens in a peaceful country like Malawi, it is a big problem.
As if this is not enough, medical officers are to be subjected to a process of writing a prescription to give a patient who has to buy medication that costs over K6 000 ($11) when the doctors fully knows that this patient cannot even afford to pay K200 ($0.36) bus fare.
Ever since I can remember, each and every year they are articles that are written about shortage of essential drugs in hospitals in Malawi. This is regardless of whether we have donor support or not. It makes me wonder how this pattern keeps on repeating itself each year when we have a full ministry that looks into such matters.
When doctors, clinical officers and nurses prickle themselves deep around 12 midnight when they are drawing blood from an HIV-positive patient, or during an operation and the hospital does not have Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), what are they supposed to do when they are the only clinician/nurse on call that day?
They are more stories of doctors and nurses who contract TB, Hepatitis B, chicken pox and other diseases when they were working because the health facility or hospital did not have protective gear like goggles, masks properly fitting gloves especially in theatre.
The extreme cases are health workers who have died due to illnesses they contracted in their line of work.
For all this, it was decided that they should receive K2300 ($4) as their risk allowance. Honestly, who would travel all the way to Capital Hill to claim K2300 ($4) for contracting a disease at work?
In some major hospitals, during night shift, there is one nurse to do the job of four nurses. It is no wonder recently we are hearing a lot of hospital mishaps; sometimes it is wise to sit down and look at the health workers aspect instead of throwing every mistake on negligence. Apart from the enormous workload and long working hours, security of the nurses who work at night in areas with little or no security is also a big issue.
This pressure makes it impossible for a doctor or nurse to leave the ward for even 30 minutes to go buy food, so they are forced to eat hospital food which is pretty disgusting. It ranges from having rotten meat to beans with weevils.
Indeed, this job is a calling and those who get into it are supposed to be aware of the challenges.
However, I do not think this covers being posted to a health centre that has no running water, the building itself is a health hazard, they have no placenta pit or incinerator, coupled with no ambulance and low drug shortage.
Indeed, a better salary is one motivation which is being considered by the government; however, motivation does not only come from receiving a better salary. Motivation comes when you are provided with basic equipment that will allow you to do your job effectively and efficiently.
If you ask most of the doctors, clinical officers and nurses, they will tell you that what drove them to do medicine is not the pay check, but their passion to help save lives. This might be due to their own personal history, experiences and convictions.
If the system does not allow them to effectively pursue their passion, what should make them stay when Manchester beckons? n