Bwaila District Hospital in Lilongwe is sailing in troubled waters with multiple challenges including poor water access and shortage of medical equipment.
The hospital’s physiotherapy department, for instance, only has one specialist and three beds, but lacks even the most basic equipment such as walking frames.
The maternity department, on the other hand, has no guardian shelter and faces erratic water supply so much that guardians buy water outside from people who have capitalised on the situation to make money.
These were among the challenges that were laid bare to Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda when she visited the facility on Wednesday.
Speaking to the minister, a guardian Christina Mahenga said she had been looking after her pregnant cousin for three days during which they have had to buy water.
She said: “We buy about two litres of warm water at K400 which we take to our women for a bath even after they deliver. It is a sad situation.”
The minister also learnt that the hospital is operating without a slit lamp because the lone equipment requires servicing, forcing health workers to use mobile phone torch lights instead.
A slit lamp is a microscope with a bright light used during eye examinations. It gives an ophthalmologist a closer look at the different structures at the front of the eye and inside the eye and is a key tool in detecting eye diseases.
Lilongwe district medical officer Mary Chimsewu Nkunika said the hospital only has 144 beds which are not enough to cater for the many patients that require admission.
She bemoaned that a structure meant for a theatre, which was constructed by the University of North Carolina-Project Malawi, is still idle due to lack of equipment such as theatre beds and anaesthetic machines.
In response, Chiponda said government is working on finding a solution to the challenges and a consultant has already submitted a quotation to fix the water and sewer systems.
Said the minister: “I must say that water is of paramount importance in the labour ward. Therefore, we will ensure that we do what we need to do to address this. We want to ensure that we don’t only depend on our partners but also do our part in addressing these challenges.”
She further commended the hospital’s health workers for providing quality health care to patients amid the myriad challenges.
Prior to visiting the hospital, Chiponda visited Chipatala Cha Pa Foni, a programme where people access health information and advice through a toll-free phone line.