Delays to rush Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika to hospital immediately after he collapsed may have led to his eventual death on Thursday, hospital sources say.
Weekend Nation can also reveal that medical staff had to look for a calcium supplement called Calcium Gluconate â€” used to among other things reduce high blood pressure and help keep the heart in a regular state.
These two scenarios happened at the most crucial time when the medics were trying to save the life of a sitting President.
“What we suspect happened was that they delayed to bring him to the hospital. Secondly, he didnâ€™t receive appropriate medical help immediately he collapsed which meant that in three minutes, his brain had shut down,” said one of the medical staff at Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital, Lilongwe.
Several interviews with medical staff and other nurses that witnessed what happened at the hospital said Mutharika required urgent medical treatment within the first few minutes from the time he collapsed.
“He was brought already dead…cardiac arrest leads to heart failure and when the heart stops, the next thing is that oxygen stops going to the brain and within three minutes the brain shuts down and a person is pronounced dead because the chances of resuscitation are almost zero, depending on the age,” said one doctor.
Mutharika, 78, though pronounced dead at the hospital, was Thursday night flown to South Africa. But the plane was also delayed by almost four hours because , according to several sources, the pilot from South Africa refused to fly a corpse.
“The air ambulance was hired to airlift a patient and not a corpse…because of that, the pilot and his medical asked government to again seek permission to have clearance to fly as cargo and that took long for all the formalities to be completed,” sources said.
Weekend Nation investigations also established through multiple sources that the calcium was sourced from a private clinic (name withheld) within Lilongwe.
“We ran to look for some supplies from other places and wards because they were not readily available in the ICU,” said the medical source.
At the time Mutharika arrived at KCH, the doctors said panic and confusion ensued in the ICU. The Presidentâ€™s security detail pushed other patients away and locked them in some wards in ICU to prevent them from seeing Mutharika.
“The bodyguards were pushing the other patients heavily to prevent them from seeing the President. They should have just walked in quietly.
“Some patients defied the security personnel and insisted to see the President being taken into the ICU. One bodyguard even kicked a patient who was reluctant to look aside,” a medical source said.
He said places like State House and Parliament require adequate medical teams to attend to emergencies because politicians are exposed to stress due to the nature of their work.
“The biggest problem is at the State House where there is no adequate medical team for the Head of State. One doctor is not enough to handle such cases. The doctor may be good but he needs other equally qualified and experienced doctors to help him handle such cases urgently.
“This is the second biggest incident to happen in our nation. We had late [Speaker] Rodwell Munyenyembe who could not be treated where the incident had happened. You need to do something immediately before rushing the patient to hospital,” said another doctor.
Officials that rushed to the hospital included the Presidentâ€™s brother Professor Peter Mutharika, Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Bright Msaka, Energy Minister Goodall Gondwe, Inspector General of police Peter Mukhito, director general of National Intelligence Services, Bintony Kutsaira, director general of State Residences, Edward Sawerengera, and presidential adviser on religious affairs the Reverend Billy Gama.
No official government official was available to comment on what happened as we went to press.
Mutharika came to power in 2004 and presided over a seven-year boom â€”underpinned by foreign aid and favourable rains â€” that made Malawi one of the worldâ€™s fastest-growing economies.