Vice-President Saulos Chilima turned Father Christmas and utilised the Boxing Day holiday to cheer patients at Nkhoma Mission Hospital in Lilongwe as one way of celebrating the festive season.
The Vice-President was clad in Father Christmas attire replete with a broad white artificial beard during the mission. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary, who also wore matching seasonal red attire. The Second Couple’s two children were also in attendance.
Officials at the hospital, owned by the Nkhoma Synod of Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), said Chilima became the second highest ranking Malawi Government official to visit the place after founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda toured the facility in the 1970s.
Chilima, who is also president of the country’s newest political party UTM, and his entourage donated assorted Christmas gifts to patients as they toured the 250-bed hospital founded by the Dutch Reformed Church missionaries 103 years ago.
The gifts were shared in the 10 departments of the facility where 42 children, including 11 ‘Christmas Day babies’, were major beneficiaries.
Besides family and friends, the Vice-President was also accompanied by UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati and officials from the Office of the Vice-President.
In his introductory remarks, principal nursing officer Paul Mekani said the hospital serves a catchment population of 450 000, but faces a number of challenges requiring critical interventions to operate smoothly.
He said: “We have a number of projects taking place at the hospital. However, we have challenges which are affecting us. Government’s freezing of recruitment of staff is a big challenge to us.
“We have so many nurses who graduated, but they are not employed. There are few nurses in the post-natal ward, which we just visited.”
Mekani said the hospital, which government subvents under an agreement with Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham), currently has no chief nursing officer and has had no promotion among staff over the past nine years.
Nkhoma Synod general secretary the Reverend Vasco Kachipapa commended Chilima, widely known by his initials SKC, for choosing to visit Nkhoma Mission Hospital this Christmas season. He said the visit was timely and helped patients in various forms.
He said: “As a church, we believe in leadership that fears God. We know that the wisdom you have comes from God.
“There are many hospitals in Malawi, but you decided to come to Nkhoma. It is a blessing to us. You have given us a wonderful Christmas gift we have never received in a long time.”
Kachipapa then presented a gift of a Holy Bible to Chilima.
In his eight-minute speech, the Vice-President promised that he would ensure that the hospital is fully staffed if he ascends to the presidency after the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
He also said his administration would re-introduce allowances which government is no longer paying health workers.
Said Chilima: “I have heard your challenges. I have heard that the doctor-patient ratio is not good. There is a need to address this problem urgently.
“When we were doing reforms, we were looking at such issues. We need to expand our revenue base and compensate our people responsibly. I can assure you that we are going to do that.”
On a positive note, Chilima commended hospital staff for their dedication to work and for ensuring a clean environment. But he challenged the staff to strive to meaningfully contribute to serving humanity and above personal interests.
One of the beneficiaries, Madalo Lazaro, who was nursing her under-five child, expressed gratitude for receiving a Christmas gift from the Vice-President.
Nkhoma Hospital is located about 50 kilometres away from the capital city. It has 11 satellite health facilities mostly in the Central Region.