In a first of 2019 planned series of the Mother’s Fun Run Sleepover Challenges, 11 women had an encounter on Friday night at St Peter’s Health Centre in Likoma district that exposed the dire status of the facility.
With no district hospital on the island, the Anglican church-run St Peter’s Health Centre serves a population of 14 527 based on the 2018 Population and Housing census.
Briefing the women, who comprised a reverend, an instructor in electrical installation, a church administrator and eight Standard Bank employees, Likoma district health officer (DHO) David Sibale spoke of numerous challenges facing the facility.
“St Peter’s Health Centre serves as a referral for Chizumulu and some remote areas of Mozambique, which are just 10 kilometres from here. As such, we have patients coming from there we must help.
“One of our biggest challenges is lack of space as sometimes, waiting mothers, those that have just delivered and others on Kangaroo, are congested in a single room. We would love if the facility, especially the maternity section, was expanded,” he explained.
Statistics at the facility show that between 30 and 40 women deliver there every month while Chizumulu registers between 10 and 16 deliveries a month.
The DHO said referral cases are difficult to handle because there is no functional boat ambulance between the island and the mainland.
“The situation is dire as we are geographically isolated, making it difficult for patients to be referred to Mzuzu. We have a boat which is often not functional. When faced with critical cases, families have to hire private boats, which cost between K350 000 and K450 000 for a round trip,” he said.
Added Sibale: “Again, there are gaps due to ship schedules, which are far apart. If one misses it today, it might mean waiting for three or four days before it docks on this island. That complicates the transport system.”
Besides shortage of staff, he said the health centre also lacks equipment such as vacuum extraction machine and incubators.
“Currently, we are surviving on an improvised blood bank. However, we are planning to acquire a used one from Nkhata Bay, but we need K504 000 to have it here.
“Meanwhile, we mostly collect blood in Mzuzu. Because of not having a functional incubator, we rely on Kangaroo mother care in case of premature babies,” explained Sibale.
Despite the challenges, the DHO said the last time Likoma registered a maternal death was in August 2018—the woman was from Mozambique.
“We attribute this to positive health-seeking behaviour of people here as the only ambulance we have collects patients right at their doorstep. In terms of personnel, the health centre has one medical doctor, two clinical officers, but no specialist,” said Sibale.
The Friday sleepover challengers were Reverend Towera Masiku of Word Alive Ministries International, Tiwonge Nyirenda, an instructor in electrical installation and electronics at Don Bosco Youth Technical Institute as well as Grace Mwanza, church administrator of St Michael and All Angels Church; and Lilongwe-based Standard Bank employees Maria Bauleni, Zione Yapu, Laika Mlozi, Alinafe Mphonde, Josephine Masano, Phylace Nyirenda, Florence Kamfose and Wongani Kaunda.
This year’s Mother’s Fun Run seeks to raise K300 million in aid of two health centres on Likoma and one in Chizumulu as well as Ntcheu District Hospital and its satellites.
The Sleepover Challenge is part of Nation Pulications Limited’s annual Mother’s Fun Run which fundraises to improve safe motherhood in public hospitals across the country