Desperate times call for desperate measures. In an unusual step, 15 doctors have sent an emotional plea to Malawi President Joyce Banda and Malawians, begging for a stop to the needless deaths in public hospitals where essential and basic medicines have mostly stocked out.
The plea, contained in an ‘Open Letter to the President and the People of Malawi’, signed by concerned Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) doctors, comes against the background of worsening shortages of medicines and deteriorating standards of health service delivery in government hospitals.
So critical is the situation, say the doctors, that they are forced to use their own resources to keep things going.
Malawi’s Ministry of Health has for a long time maintained that the situation is under control.
“We are writing as a group of concerned physicians and other consultants who work at Kamuzu Central Hospital. Over the past few months, there have been consistent and worsening shortages of essential and basic medications and supplies that are necessary for the care of acutely sick patients.
“These include, but not limited to, IV fluids, antibiotics, syringes, sutures and plaster. We have been struggling to provide these supplies using our private funds donated by friends and family, but have come to realise that the situation, already dire, is not improving and our current strategy is neither sufficient nor sustainable.
“In the meantime, we are experiencing the deaths of patients from treatable diseases [diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria], which is heart breaking,” reads the doctors’ letter, to be published in the media tomorrow (Monday)
Urgent help needed
The doctors say they have talked to their colleagues in all public hospitals, but their immediate concern is to find help for KCH patients.
They add that they have engaged the authorities to address the problems, but there has not been any positive response befitting the situation.
“We are writing to publicly implore you to address this issue immediately,” reads the statement.
The doctors hope that when MPs meet in February, they will come up with an urgent solution to the situation while waiting for the restocking of the Central Medical Stores and passing of a new budget.
“Our patients deserve to be provided with the basic medications and supplies necessary for treatment in the public hospitals. Every day that we do not have these results in unnecessary suffering and death,” adds the letter.
KCH director Dr Nordeen Alide confirmed receiving the letter and said the issues raised are genuine. But he said the doctors were not right to say they had exhausted all avenues for resolving the problems.
Alide said already there is a meeting for all specialists from the major hospitals with principal secretary for health on February 7 to discuss the issues.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali said the ministry could not respond to the issues raised before reading the letter.
Health advocacy NGO, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), on Friday said the fact that doctors have gone as far as writing the President means the country is sitting on a time bomb.
Mhen executive director Martha Kwataine urged the President to act immediately because people are dying in hospitals.
“The President must do something. This is life or death. We are in a crisis. Doctors going that far shows that the matters are very serious. We join them. Chances of striking are very high at the rate things are going in the health sector,” said Kwataine.