The dialysis unit at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre is now fully operational and patients who were relocated to Lilongwe for treatment at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) have now been taken back, QECH Deputy Hospital Administrator Linly Chewere has confirmed.
Chewere says the 17 patients, who were relocated to Lilongwe to access dialysis services, returned to Blantyre last week.
The dialysis unit at QECH was shut down early last month after reagents such as bloodlines run out, a situation which rendered the machine non functional and putting lives of the kidney patients at risk.
This was due to government’s failure to settle a K61 million debt it owed Fresenius, a South African medical supplier of bloodlines.
Bloodlines are tubes that connect human body to the machine during dialysis.
“The reagents were supplied to us and arrived in this country last week, the machines are now fully operational and all patients are now back in Blantyre,” confirmed Chewere.
Deputy Director of health responsible for physical assets Lovemore Mkukuma also confirmed in an interview that government has paid the debt it owed the supplier.
Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) Executive Director George Jobe has since commended government for responding to the problem.
“As a network that is very much interested in health issues we are very happy that government has moved in to settle the debt and that the situation will soon be back to normal. We were worried about all the inconveniences the patients were going through and we are happy the problem has been sorted,” said Jobe.
He, however, expressed the need for a long term solution to the challenges kidney patients were facing.
“The population of kidney patients is rising everyday and the number of people in need of dialysis services is increasing as well. We need to have dialysis units in each and every district hospital to minimise travelling costs by the patients,” he suggested.
Kidney patients need at least two dialysis services a week.
To achieve this, organisations such as MHEN, Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) Press Corporation, Kidney Foundation, Project Child Malawi, Industrial Building Services, and Kidney Research Foundation have teamed up to solicit financial assistance to help find lasting solutions to the problems associated with the dialysis unit at QECH which serves up to 30 patients.
In an earlier interview, chief executive officer for Kidney Research Foundation Lucy Msungeni said instead of just criticising government, there was need to join hands and come up with long time solutions to the problem.
Said Msungeni: “Government is currently spending a lot towards Kidney disease treatment alone. It will assist us that instead of criticizing the government, we will learn to appreciate the efforts they are doing towards the health sector and thereby hopefully change our mindset to begin working positively with Government towards issues affecting the Malawian population for our common good.”
In early 2014 Qech stayed for months without the machines after they broke down.
And in August the same year, government commissioned a new dialysis unit at QECH at a cost of K45 million ($61 475).
This was the second state of the art unit in the country after a 10 bed unit at KCH opened in 2013.