Two years after the Indian government donated four mammography machines for detection of breast cancer, Ministry of Health (MoH) has finally installed the equipment at two of the country’s four central hospitals.
The machines have been installed at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe in the Central Region and Mzuzu Central Hospital in the Northern Region.
A third machine is expected to be installed this week at Zomba Central Hospital in Eastern Region.
However, women in the Southern Region will have to wait a little longer to access the service at a public hospital as the machine has not been installed at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre after a hardware part developed a fault while in storage.
MoH Principal Secretary Macphail Magwira confirmed that the machines remained idle for two years because government did not provide infrastructure.
In an interview on Tuesday, he said there was a delay in commissioning the machines because at the time of the donations, rooms to house the equipment were not ready.
“But now I am pleased to inform you the mammography units have been installed at Kamuzu Central Hospital, one has been installed at Mzuzu Central Hospital and we expect another one to be installed at Zomba Central Hospital within the week,” he said.
Magwira also confirmed that QECH would have to wait because a detector on the mammography machine developed a fault and had to be sent to Canada for repairs.
While the number of cancer cases annually is not known, breast cancer cases constitute 44.1 percent of the overall number of cases globally among women aged 15 to 49, according to officials.
Apart from mammography machines, government has also been failing to install a CT scan at QECH since it was donated in 2010.
A CT scan is used to determine the cause of a stroke or to assess serious head injuries but can also be used to detect abnormalities like tumours.
Magwira said a CT scan unit also needed a special building which would be ready at Qech in the next two months.
When it was discovered that government was keeping life-saving machines without using them, health policy analyst Maziko Matemba urged authorities to implement policies and guidelines on donated hospital equipment because there have been frequent incidences of such machines breaking down and requiring huge expenses to maintain.
He asked MoH to conduct an inventory check on hospital equipment in all the country’s facilities and maintain those that have broken down but require minimal attention to run again.