With a projected population of over half a million, Chikwawa District is operating with only one functional ambulance at the district’s main hospital, Weekend Nation has learnt.
This has compromised the district’s referral system forcing patients to dig deep into their pockets to seek medical attention at the facility and Ngabu Rural Hospital.
Both Chikwawa District Hospital spokesperson Settie Piriminta and Chikwawa health and environment committee chairperson Mwaiwao Dowe confirmed the hospital’s predicament in separate interviews.
“We are in a crisis. There are nine ambulances at the district hospital, but only three are working. However, they are working illegally because they have exceeded their recommended mileage of 300 000 kilometres [km]. For some months now, only one ambulance has been working,” said Dowe.
He added that it has been hard for the ambulance to cover all health centres and serve the district hospital.
However, Dowe’s major concern is the use of ambulances that have exceeded the required mileage and safety of patients on board.
While agreeing with Dowe that there are nine ambulances, Piriminta said of these nine, three are running and four are at the garage while two are in irredeemable state.
“Of those three running, one has exceeded the recommended mileage of 300 000 km.One is operational plus the other donated by Press cane Limited. Thus, two are on the road,” he said.
According to the 2008 Population and Housing Census projection, Chikwawa has 583 461 people. The high population is already exerting pressure on the few health facilities in the district. The recommended patient to ambulance ration is 1:50 000. Thus, the district needs 12 ambulances to effectively serve the population.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango heaped blame on Chikwawa District Council.
“The whole Ministry of Health and Population is centralised and it is the responsibility of the councils to ensure their ambulances are functional,” he said.