Although government and officials at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre last week put a positive spin on the drug situation at the referral hospital, doctors insist that there is a crisis at the institution that needs urgent redress.
In refuting a Nation on Sunday story on the drug situation at the hospital that forced doctors to contribute money to save some patients, the Ministry of Health and QECH administrators claimed that the hospital has enough medical supplies.
The claims have angered some specialist doctors who have threatened to take unspecified action if government does not tell Malawians the truth about the drug situation at the hospital.
The doctors have also backed their colleague, Dr Jane Mallewa, who broke the news that the situation was forcing them to contribute money to buy the out-of-stock essential drugs for critically ill patients.
“It is with dismay that government and indeed hospital management could be saying that. For more than 15 years, this hospital has been run by doctors from College of Medicine and if it were not for them, this hospital would have collapsed by now,” said one doctor who did not want to be identified.
His account was corroborated by several other specialist doctors who revealed that the health facility has less than 20 percent of expert doctors and most of the medical work is done by doctors from the College of Medicine.
“The problem has been chronic and we are not targeting the People’s Party. This is not a political issue; we are only trying to improve patients’ care,” said another doctor.
Following government’s statement on the drug situation, one head of department wrote the hospital director, Dr Andrew Gonani, asking him to withdraw his statement.
“I respectfully suggest that your statement to the press is withdrawn or expanded upon to reflect the real situation on the ground. I know that in an election year these are sensitive issues, but we have a duty as medical professionals to advocate for the needs of our patients,” wrote the head of department in his letter to Gonani dated April 9 2014.
The doctor said they were meeting many difficulties in providing essential drugs and supplies to patients, yet government does not seem to care or appreciate their input.
“Over the last few months, Friends of Sick Children had to purchase or arrange for donations because they were in short supply or unavailable in the pharmacy. It is not truthful to state that these shortages have gone away. Just yesterday, in my clinic, patients were returning from pharmacy having not received the drugs we had prescribed.
“For example, a child received only 15 days’ worth of Frusemide rather than the two months we had prescribed. We had to supply propranolol (O/S) and additional enalapril and digoxin,” wrote the doctor.
The letter was copied to deputy hospital director Tulipoka Soko, chief hospital administrator Themba Mhango and clinical heads of departments.
In the letter, the head of department listed 27 essential drugs that doctors, under the Friends of the Sick, have bought or arranged for donations from well-wishers.
Among the drugs and supplies are Amoxycillin/Clavulinic acid CEA, Cloxacillin DEA, Ibuprofen DEA, Phenobarbitone HVA, Insulin lente DVA, Carbamazepine DEB, Soidum Valproate CVB, Adrenaline HVA and Fluconazole capsule DVA.
“There is a chronic problem with drug supply to this hospital that appears to be ignored or denied by the very people who should be trying to resolve the situation,” he said.
On Thursday, Principal Secretary for Health Dr Charles Mwansambo convened a meeting with the doctors in Blantyre over the impasse between QECH management, government and specialist doctors.
“We should be meeting any day next week to come up with a collective voice. Not all the doctors attended the meeting and we need to brief our friends before we decide what to do,” said one doctor who attended the meeting.
Gonani yesterday refused to comment on the issue, referring Nation on Sunday to Mhango. Mhango said the doctors should specify the drugs that are in short supply.