Patients at the Outpatients Department (OPD) of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre were yesterday left unattended to due to shortage of staff.
When The Nation visited the department last evening, more than 15 patients and their guardians who claimed to have been at the facility since morning were seen sleeping outside the main entrance to the unit.
Some of the patients who spoke to The Nation said they had resolved to sleep on the hospital’s floor right at the entrance as they could not manage to return to their respective villages where they were referred from.
Most of the patients were referred from health centres within Blantyre such as South Lunzu, Chikuli and Madziabango.
Thirty-year-old James Chiopa, whose one part of the body looked paralysed, was referred from Chikuli Health Centre while Harry Chinsomba was sent from Madziabango Health Centre and both had been at the heath facility as early 10am but could not access treatment.
Hospital sources told The Nation that the medical personnel in the department were on a stay-away to push for their unpaid allowances for the past three months. The source said the staff were only attending to emergency cases.
But while confirming that the hospital neglected the patients, QECH chief administrator Themba Mhango said the problem was a result of shortage of staff in the department.
Said Mhango: “We only have four clinicians in the Outpatients Department and two of them are sick, one went to attend a funeral, so we remained with only one. And this one worked overnight and could not continue working during the day.”
He said the hospital had mobilised clinicians from other departments and interns to salvage the situation.
But as of 6pm, there was no sign of the stranded patients being assisted as the main entrance to the facility remained tightly closed.
QECH is the country’s biggest referral hospital and serves more than 2 000 patients daily.