The medical and surgical camp beginning today at Thyolo District Hospital is set to help government save about K300 million (US$600 000), The Nation has established.
A group of 32 medics from East, Central and Southern African Health Community (Ecsa-HC) arrived in the country last week to provide free treatment to poor surgical patients who would otherwise never have accessed such specialised treatment unless mother luck smiled at them to get a foreign referral.
In an interview on Saturday during the launch of the camp at Thyolo District Hospital, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Health Chris Kang’ombe expressed gratitude to Ecsa-HC for considering Malawi.
He said: “The number of surgical patients in the country continues to rise. But we do not have adequate capacity to treat all of them. We have to make foreign referrals which, for a patient, it cost us not less than K2 million.”
The week-old surgical camp—which is being led by Professor Chris Samukange—is set to treat 149 surgical patients from various districts in the Southern Region.
Malawi, with a population of about 15 million people, has a doctor patient ratio of about 1:10 000 and a much lesser population of specialised surgeons. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the ratio of one doctor to 1 000 patients.
The camp, the third of its kind since Ecsa’s establishment in 2012, is an initiative of African doctors to bridge the medical human resource gap threatening the survival of large African populations due to none availability of specialists and equipment.
According to Samukange, the camp emphasises that Africans can assist each other in times of need.
The Ecas-HC first medical camp was in The Kingdom of Lesotho in 2012 where 56 patients received critical surgical treatment. Swaziland came second last year and 580 critical cases were treated there.
The purpose of the camp is to promote South to South cooperation, but more importantly, this “will offer free specialised medical and surgical services to needy patients, thereby contributing to the alleviation of the existing disease burden at individual, family, community and national level.”
The camp will also provide the highest possible level of medical and surgical care to patients that would otherwise have been referred to foreign hospitals and provide continuous medical education (CME) to health care workers.
It will also teach basic surgical and clinical management skills to Malawian health care workers possessing no specialised surgical training, but who may be required to provide surgical services in their hospitals.