Government’s new policy to have essential health services available to all Malawians is facing hiccups in Rumphi District.
Capital Hill, through the Ministry of Health, signed a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) facilities for the delivery of maternal and neonatal services as one way of ensuring that the services are accessed by everyone regardless of their socio-economic status.
Through the agreement, government foots the bills for patients who live within an eight-kilometre radius of Cham facilities.
However, individuals living around government-owned Lura Health Centre in Rumphi have asked government to consider extending the radius due to poor services in its hospitals.
Speaking on Saturday at a safe motherhood open day event organised by the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia’s health department, a representative of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kachulu said Lura Health Centre is usually out of drugs and pregnant women are mostly assisted by guardians during delivery due to inadequate health personnel.
He also said attitude of the health workers is of concern among the locals, hence forcing women to opt for Cham-owned David Gordon Memorial Hospital (DGM) in Livingstonia which offers quality health services.
However, he said the women are forced to pay since they come from outside the eight-kilometre radius of the hospital’s catchment area.
Rumphi district health officer Dr Stephen Macheso said his office has reviewed the agreement with Livingstonia Synod which owns DGM Hospital because of the challenges in the area.
He said the new agreement, which has revised the mapping, is also applicable to the synod’s Luwuchi and Mlowe health centres.
“But for the allegations of poor services at Lura, we will have to conduct an inquiry if that is true,” said Macheso.
According to Ministry of Health (MoH), evidence shows that the removal of user fees in Cham facilities has resulted in an increase in the number of patients seeking care in these facilities.
An analysis of the proportion of Malawi’s population living within an eight-kilometre radius of a health facility shows that there are certain districts that are better served than others, states MoH website www.health.gov.mw.
On Likoma Island, where there is no government facility, none of the population is served, and this district is followed by Chitipa where 51 percent of the population lives more than 8km from a health facility, Kasungu (38 percent), Balaka (32 percent), Chikwawa and Mangochi (27 percent).
On the other hand, in Chiradzulu, Blantyre, Mulanje and Zomba districts, less than five percent of the population resides more than 8km from a health facility.
Apart from increasing geographical coverage, CCAP Livingstonia Synod moderator John Gondwe suggests that government needs to come up with a population policy to limit the number of children per family.
Since 2014, at least 263 newborns and 35 mothers have died in Rumphi district. n