For eight years, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), the country’s biggest referral facility, has operated without a computerised tomography (CT) scanner which makes detailed images and reveals anatomic details of internal organs not visible using conventional X-rays.
During the eight years since 2012 when the hospital had no such machine, patients in need of CT scanning services were referred to either Mwaiwathu Private Hospital within Blantyre at an average of K100 000 per person per session or subjected to a 300 kilometres-plus drive to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe.
It was little wonder, therefore, yesterday when Ministry of Health and hospital staff were all smiles as Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda commissioned the $900 000 (about K675 million) CT scanner funded by donors through their Health Service Joint Fund. The minister said the Government of Norway was the major contributor to the basket fund for the cause.
In an interview after commissioning the medical device, the minister said she was excited that the country’s largest referral hospital finally took delivery of the equipment which would help to save people’s lives at a right time as well as resources spent outsourcing the service or through referrals to Lilongwe.
She said the Tonse Alliance administration’s vision is to equip all public referral hospitals with medical equipment to improve health service delivery.
Said Chiponda: “But my heart still bleeds because Mzuzu Central Hospital has no CT scanner, no dialysis machine and MRI [magnetic resonance imaging].
“We want to see Mzuzu, Kamuzu and Zomba central hospitals having such equipment.”
The minister warned QECH staff against demanding money from patients or their guardians for the CT scanning service she said will be free of charge.
QECH director Samson Mndolo said on average the hospital gets 10 cases daily requiring CT scanning.
He said for the past eight years, the hospital has been referring its patients requiring the service to either Mwaiwathu Private Hospital or KCH after the QECH CT machine stopped working in 2012.
Mndolo said work at the oldest referral hospital was very difficult without the CT scanner because medical personnel were unable to identify and diagnose certain diseases.
He said: “This new CT scanning machine will make a huge difference because our eyes, our clinical skills need some pieces of equipment such as this machine to help. Our mandate is to provide specialised service but, unfortunately, we used to outsource such services.”
Mndolo observed that the CT scanner requires specialists to operate; hence, the hospital has asked the Ministry of Health to consider recruiting radiologists which the facility does not have.
He also said the facility now needs MRI devices which use magnet and radio waves to analyse organs and structures inside the human body. He said the hospital has no MRI machine and the CT scanner does not substitute the functions of the MRI device.
In 2018, the Malawi Government announced plans to buy two CT scanners to be installed at KCH and QECH. However, to date, the devices are yet to be delivered at the two referral hospitals