Mchinji District Hospital has been operating without a functional mortuary for three years due to lack of refrigerators that cool dead bodies.
The development has sparked anger in residents who stormed the District Commissioner’s (DC) offices on Thursday where they petitioned the DC to solve the problem within 14 days, failing which they will hold a vigil at the DC’s premises.
But Mchinji DC Yamikani Chitete said the problem is beyond the district council, but Ministry of Health Headquarters.
In the petition, the residents also complained lack of a standby generator, which has led to deaths for people who were put on oxygen. Another complaint is that at night no clinician is available at the hospital and that if they are available they charge for their services.
The petition reads in part: “The mortuary is not working for three years now. It has stayed for long without maintenance resulting in early decomposing of bodies.”
But Chitete said that her office cannot solve the problem within 14 days because the council’s budget is not enough.
“Refrigerators are expensive equipment. They cannot be bought using the council’s annual recurrent budget that we receive. The Ministry of Health [MoH] is the one that can solve this. My office is, therefore, supposed to forward this complaint to the Ministry of Health, so that in the next budget, government can release the money for procurement of the refrigerators,” he said .
Chitete said the hospital is failing to settle debts to its suppliers.
Speaking after delivering the petition, Mchinji business committee chairperson Robson Mwale said the residents have suffered for long.
“The generator has stayed for long without working resulting in unnecessary deaths, especially for patients that are on oxygen and under operation,” said Mwale.
MoH spokesperson Henry Chimbali said issues to do with funding of hospitals are handled by the Treasury Department.
Treasury department spokesperson Nations Msowoya said his department will decide on how it can handle the problem upon receipt of the petition.
“If the petition has been given to the DC, it will be sent to the MoH who will forward it to us. It is at this junction when we can find the root cause of the problem and how we can assist Mchinji people,” said Msowoya.