Ministry of Health (MoH) says development partners are yet to give a go-ahead to start construction of the National Cancer Centre in Lilongwe.
MoH spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said in an interview yesterday all logistical issues have been sorted out and what remained was for the financiers to give a “No Object Order” for construction works to begin.
He said: “Last week, we flighted adverts inviting building contractors to bid. I do not think the process of identifying the contractors for the project will take long.”
The MoH statement comes weeks after members of Parliament (MPs) under the Parliamentary Committee on Health demanded a report on the timelines for the construction of the centre.
Construction works are yet to start 15 months after Parliament approved a Loan Authorisation Bill to borrow $13 million (about K5.4 billion at the time of borrowing) from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) Fund.
Earlier, MoH had indicated that the project would delay because the government was yet to source additional funding after the budget had increased from $15 million to $40 million due to unauthorised changes to designs and specifications.
Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Juliana Lunguzi said as a committee, they will be happy to see the project taking off sooner than later.
Speaking in Lilongwe on Saturday on the sidelines of a cancer awareness walk organised by Think Pink Malawi, the Dedza East legislator (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said the committee expects construction works to start in December 2016.
Said Lunguzi: “This is what we were promised when the committee met officials from the ministry recently.”
Chikumbe confirmed the indication of the December 2016 date, but emphasised progress will depend on how soon financiers respond to their request.
In an interview yesterday, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe said the delay in constructing the centre is having a huge bearing on the social and economic fronts of the country.
The centre was initially designed to cater for 2 000 cancer cases a year with facilities for in-service training of oncology medical staff.
According to the 2015/16 National Budget allocation to MoH, about K150 million was indicated as Malawi Government’s contribution while Opec Fund was to release K1.1 billion in part fulfilment of the loan agreement.
The project has been embroiled in controversy as government at one time changed the earlier identified location from Lilongwe to Blantyre, which the opposition in Parliament protested and subsequently a Parliamentary Committee on Health report recommended that the project remain in Lilongwe for easier access by patients referred from the Northern and Southern regions.
Writing in the Malawi Medical Journal published in September 2015, University of Malawi (Unima) College of Medicine (CoM) cancer specialist Dr Leo Masamba observed that oncology practice was still in its infancy in Malawi and needed “much investment from State, academic and research institutions and from the private sector to fast-track progress in this area” to deal with the disease.
He said there are between 55 percent and 60 percent of cancer patients requiring radiotherapy in the country. n