Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre has temporarily shut down its dialysis unit because it has no reagents, putting lives of patients with renal failure and other kidney problems at risk.
The development has financially strained the health facility as it is now being forced to ferry the patients to and from Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe—the only other public hospital with dialysis machines—to access the service.
QECH deputy hospital administrator Chikumbutso Tambala confirmed yesterday that the country’s major referral public hospital was unable to help patients because of non-functioning machines.
He said: “I can’t give you actual details, but there are some reagents that use the procedure, which currently Queens has run out of and what we are doing is to take patients to Kamuzu Central Hospital to access the service and once they are assisted they are taken back to Blantyre. The whole of last week we have been taking patients to KCH.
“We cannot assist the patients, so we just develop a schedule and a [minibus] ferries the patients to Kamuzu Central Hospital for that service.”
Tambala could, however, not guarantee when operations would resume, saying they were waiting from the Ministry of Health who are responsible for procurement of the supplies for the computer controlled machines—the most important equipment in treating chronic renal patients and those with kidney problems.
“The actual procurement of the reagents is done by the ministry and when they are ready we are just told to go and collect them. So, I cannot guarantee when the services will be back to normal,” said Tambala.
Commenting on the issue, president of Diabetes Association of Malawi, Timothy Mtambalika, bemoaned the development, saying it will put lives of diabetic patients at risk as they rely on the machines to clean their kidneys so that they properly function.
In early 2014, the hospital stayed for several 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 about 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.