Some patients in need of CT scanning at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe could be dying needlessly for failing to access such services at the facility, Nation on Sunday has learnt.
The predicament follows the breaking down in November last year, of the only available machine at KCH, which was being accessed freely by hundreds of patients from the Central and Northern regions.
A CT (computer tomography) is a sophisticated X-ray device that gives anatomic details of internal organs.
KCH director Jonathan Ngoma confirmed of the plight of patients, but said there is nothing the hospital management can do for now.
Ngoma said the alternative available is for patients to pay for CT services at a private clinic and later come to KCH for treatment.
He said the Ministry of Health headquarters was informed of the problem soon after the machine stopped working, and is yet to respond.
According to information made available to us, patients who can afford are paying about K150 000 for scanning services at private clinics. One such patient, Agnes Mumba, confirmed to Nation on Sunday that she paid the amount at a clinic she accessed the services.
Ngoma said on average, KCH attends to 10 patients a day, which translates to K30 million a month if KCH was to be referring patients to a private.
Said Ngoma: “Our monthly allocation is around K60 million and if you do the calculations, you would see that it is almost impossible for the hospital to help such patients.”
But our findings show that failure by Ministry of Health to fix the much-needed machine emanates from outstanding issues with a supplier—Medical Consultants Africa (MCA), which government owes about K96 million in accumulated storage charges during the past five years for another scanner, now just lying idle in MCA’s warehouse.
The new machine was expected to be installed at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, but director of planning and policy development Emma Mabvumbe told our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, two months ago that a room was being prepared to house the machine.
As QECH is yet to have the machine installed, it also refers patients to a private clinic at a higher cost.
Government also owes MCA about K523 million for the service contract it signed with MCA for the machine which is in the warehouse.
The supplier recently put the machine [in the warehouse] up for sale for K250 million to recover his money, but it has not yet been sold, according to MCA chief executive officer (CEO) Jonathan Bisnowaty.
He also indicated that his company is the one expected to fix the KCH scanner as per contract it signed with the ministry, but they have not yet gone to repair it because of the outstanding bills.
In an earlier interview, QECH spokesperson Themba Mhango said the hospital was referring patients needing CT scan to services to the Malaria Project within the campus, but admitted that the cost for such services was prohibitive to most patients.
Said Mhango: “We need a CT machine because to run an MRI is more expensive than a CT scan.” He did not indicate how much the hospital was paying for the services.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said in an interview on Wednesday the ministry is still discussing with MCA to have the machine fixed.