It never rains but pours for Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe, one of the country’s main referral hospitals, as besides having an operating theatre that is operating below capacity; The Nation can reveal that the elevator at the hospital has also stopped working.
The situation has forced patients to use steps when going up and down stairs in the three-storey building, hence creating a fortune among vendors who are charging for carrying patients up and down stairs.
KCH deputy director Mable Chinkhata confirmed that the elevator is not working and that the hospital authorities are aware of the problem.
She said the problem has taken long to be rectified because a local contractor who repairs it failed to work on the elevator.
Said Chinkhata: “We could [have] solved this problem long time ago, but the one who repairs it failed to rectify the problem this time around. We tried to engage another repairer from Zimbabwe, but he is still waiting for a spare part from South Africa. Any day within the week, this new contractor will work on the problem.”
One of the guardians, Clara Phiri from Mvera in Dowa, said the problem is hitting guardians hard as they are spending extra money to pay pieceworkers who carry their patients.
“A pieceworker is charging us K300 [$0.75] to carry a patient up or down stairs,” said Phiri.
Chinkhata condemned the practice by young men who are cashing in on the plight of patients, saying it is not allowed within the premises of KCH.
However, she said that the hospital management has ordered 20 junior staff workers to carry patients up and down stairs as they wait for the problem to be solved.
“Twenty people have been assigned to carry the patients. Ten are working during the day while the other ten are working at night,” said Chinkhata.
A source within the hospital administration confided to The Nation that the contractor who repairs the elevator whenever it breaks down refused to repair it this time because the hospital is failing to settle a debt amounting to K250 000 [about $625] of the services he offered in the past. But Chinkhata said this is not true.