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Bed crisis hits hospitals

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The country’s health sector continues to face a lot of challenges, the latest being a serious shortage of beds in district hospitals.

In the health facilities, patients are sleeping on the floor, a situation which does not just expose them to more infections but also compromises on personal dignity.

During our spot-checks at Karonga, Chitipa and Kasungu hospitals in the last two months, we came across broken hospital beds which need maintenance or replacement in some cases.

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One of the guardians at Karonga District Hospital, Catherine Simuchimba, described the situation as distressing, especially for patients who are not receiving the necessary medical care due to perpetual shortage of drugs and lack of necessary equipment.

“It’s high time the government replaced the beds and mattresses in most of the country’s health facilities. Some of these have been in use for a very long time. Let a hospital be a place of healing by providing the necessary comfort to the patients and guardians,” she said.

But some commentators have blamed the Ministry of Health (MoH) for failing to respond to the growing population which continues to exert pressure on the country’s health resources.

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Executive Director for Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), George Jobe, wondered why government is paying a blind eye to the population increase by ensuring that the bed capacity in the hospitals tallies with prevailing trends.

“This is pathetic. After procurement, beds should be given a lifespan so that new ones are bought periodically, taking into account that our [population] figures are growing as a country,” he said.

Jobe added that with the current congestion in public health facilities, it does not make sense to introduce paying wards as suggested by government, arguing it would further alienate and deny such people right to good health services.

“This is why we have been pushing government to increase the health budget, to be in line with the Abuja Declaration. Perhaps some of these things would be taken care of,” he said.

MoH spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, admitted that government is struggling to procure various assets including hospital beds but also pushed the blame on District Health Offices (DHOs).

“It’s a fact we are constrained resource-wise, and we expect our DHOs to be responsible and plan on maintaining broken [beds] ones and taking good care of those that are in shape. Let districts like Karonga learn from Mwanza where we have seen this happening and there are no outcries,” Chikumbe said.

He said with the devolvement of most of its functions, the ministry is directly responsible for central hospitals and not district hospitals.

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