Six years ago, government, through Medical Consultants Africa (MCA), bought two CT scanners—one to be installed at KCH and another at QECH.
A CT scanner is a special X-ray machine that produces cross-sectional images of the body using X-rays. The CT scanner enables doctors to tell what is happening with their patients. Cancer patients are also able to follow if the cancer drugs they are taking are working or not.
A radiologist at KCH Suzgo Mzumara told this newspaper earlier that a CT scanner is a very important machine.
“With a CT scanner, doctors can tell what is happening with their patients. Surgeons are able to prepare their surgery very well because they know what exactly is wrong with their patients,” she said.
The one for KCH was installed and patients have been accessing it, but the machine for QECH was not installed because there was no room to house it. The machine has been lying in the supplier’s warehouse, where it has been accumulating storage charges.
Spokesperson for Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) Themba Mhango said, in an interview on Tuesday, the room to house the CT scanner is not yet ready.
On average, 25 patients need CT scanning services at KCH, a referral hospital in Lilongwe, which also caters for the Northern Region, and just as many patients are referred to QECH in Blantyre for CT scanning services in Blantyre, according to hospital authorities.
In December last year, the KCH machine broke down. Initially, the hospital was sending patients in need of CT scanning to a private clinic in the city. But the hospital stopped the arrangement because it has no money, according to KCH spokesperson Tiyanjane Kazombo.
KCH receives a monthly allocation of K60 million and could have been spending an average of K30 million a month if it was to be referring say 10 patients to a private clinic where the charge for one patient is K150 000.
Patients who can afford to pay for the CT scanning services, go to the private clinic, but those who cannot pay for the services have nowhere else to go.
Poor patients at QECH have been using a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), belonging to the Malaria Project within the hospital’s campus, according to Mhango.
He said, in an interview on Monday, the MRI at the Malaria Project has now outlived its lifespan and can break down anytime.
“The machine is still running but once it breaks down, that will be the end of it because the company which donated it is no longer there to repair it,” he said.
Government owes MCA K1.1 billion accumulated over six years for repair works for the machine at KCH, storage charges for the machine in the warehouse meant for QECH and for the service contract, according to court documents we have seen.
MCA who was also contracted to be repairing the KCH scanner is refusing to repair the machine at KCH because government is failing to settle the debt.
The broken down machine needs K23 million for spare parts and maintenance, according to Kazombo.
She said: “The challenge is our patients are deteriorating because they cannot access CT scanning services,