Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Health have recommended to government to privatise parts of the newly constructed 350-bed Nkhata Bay District Hospital to supplement running costs.
In minutes compiled by the committee, the parliamentary body feels the current financial hiccups facing the hospital would make it impossible for Nkhata Bay DHO to maintain the hospital.
Reads the minutes in part: “After visiting the new Nkhata Bay District Hospital, the committee noted that the hospital is too big and that will result in the need for more funds to maintain the hospital.
“The committee, therefore, recommended that government should consider privatising part of the hospital, for example to training institutions be it medical or nursing so that costs for running this hospital could be shared.”
Nkhata Bay District Hospital has been constructed with a partial loan from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) Fund for International Development (Ofid) amounting to $28 million (about K15.9 billion). Government also contributed a yet to be established sum in counterpart financing for its completion, but still owes the contractor, Plem Construction, K1.3 billion.
The new hospital has wards for individual specialities, outpatient clinics, a fully-equipped laboratory, pharmacy and equipment apart from 69 staff houses.
Its large size has worried the committee, especially the government’s capacity to run it efficiently. The hospital also has operating theatres and intensive care unit (ICU).
It is estimated that the hospital will require about K40 million a month to run. The hospital has 105 air conditioners, a kitchen with electric cooking equipment and security lights which are likely to incur a monthly electricity bill of K3 million.
In the 2015/16 National Budget, Parliament allocated K1 billion towards the completion of the hospital and K731 million to the district health office (DHO) for its operations
The K731 million is for the DHO to cover cost of drugs, satellite health centres and locum allowances, among others.
President Peter Mutharika is due to open the hospital mid-October after the contractor finally handed over keys which he was holding onto for non-payment of arrears, but the committee has recommended that before the official opening, Ministry of Health should be advised on how best to use the facility.
The minutes will form part of the report which the committee will submit to Parliament at the next meeting in November following its session between August 24 and 27.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe confirmed that the ministry received recommendations from the committee pertaining to Nkhata Bay Hospital and other issues.
“The recommendations may be considered because the set up of the new hospital is such that it will allow for such. The facilities are tailor-made for that kind of arrangement because it is even bigger than Mzuzu Central Hospital,” Chikumbe said.