Members of the Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus (Covid-19) and legislators from various parliamentary committees on Tusday embarked on a two-day fact-finding mission on the state of preparedness to fight the pandemic at district level.
The tour exposed gaps in the preparedness, including shortage of staff and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
During the tour of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Deputy Minister of Defence Chipiliro Mpinganjira and his entourage learnt that the country’s major referral centre needs additional 1 162 healthcare workers. Currently, the facility is served by 1 162 health workers.
QECH director Samson Mndolo told Mpinganjira and Machinga Central East legislator Daud Chikwanje that QECH now has two more centres to take care of; hence, the need for more staff.
He said: “We have Queens, the hospital which we have always had and we have created a screening area just next to the [QECH] gate. Then we have KCN [Kamuzu College of Nursing] Kameza [Campus].”
QECH is from today scheduled to screen people entering the facility, including staff, patients, guardians and visitors as one way of preventing the spread of Covid-19.
In an interview after the visit, Mpinganjira said he was impressed with the preparations QECH and Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) were making.
In Chitipa, Minister of Health Jappie Mhango, who is also Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 chairperson, said government is committed to ensure that district health facilities are able to conduct coronavirus testing.
Minister of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife Symon Vuwa Kaunda visited an isolation centre at Mzimba District Hospital where testing for coronavirus is being conducted.
He said: “We gave M’mbelwa District Council K65 million and so far so good as they have used some money to buy personal protective equipment and also used part of the money to train laboratory personnel as they have started testing corona suspects.”
In Mangochi, Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi urged people in the country to take politics out of the Covid-19 fight and play a part in fighting the pandemic.
On his part, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Bright Msaka, who toured health facilities in Zomba, said he was impressed to see fully equipped isolation centres and a testing laboratory at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi.
“At Capital Hill, we are only advised by health experts on what is being done on the ground. However, we said we could appreciate more when we visit the districts too,” he said.
The trips have sparked debate and criticism with some suggesting that existing government district structures could have effectively undertaken the exercise and report to the committee.