Cancer centre in K6.2 billion deficit
Project risks losing out on external equipment funding
The Malawi National Cancer Centre (MNCC) in Lilongwe is facing a deficit of K6.2 billion for it to be completed, Ministry of Health officials have disclosed.
Head of Infrastructure Development in the ministry, Sanderson Kuyeli, told the Health Committee of Parliament Wednesday that works on bunkers did not start in time because Treasury delayed to fund the project.
Construction of the radiotherapy and brachytherapy underground shelters must be completed for the centre to start providing cancer treatment.
The bunker walls, floor and roof are designed to prevent the passage of radioactive particles into adjacent external areas.
Kuyeli said the bunker construction project has been allocated K800 million in the 2023-24 national budget against the required amount of K7 billion for civil works, the consultant, training and project management.
“The contractor for civil works came on the site in October 2022. The contract amount is $707,477.36 and an advance payment of $1,312,250 was made in March 2023. Payment is expected to be completed in October2023,” Kuyeli said.
He fears the ministry will not be able to honour the upcoming payment of K1.5 billion to the contractor if resources will not be made available.
“Further delays are anticipated and the delays have implications on procurement of bunker equipment with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA],” Kuyeli said.
He added that Malawi obtained a loan from Opec Fund and that in the loan, there was a component for equipment which is about $4 million (approximately K4.1 billion).
“This amount was sent to IAEA to help us with procurement of equipment to be used on the bunkers and the Malawi Government also sent another $3 million (approximately K3 billion) which is sitting with IAEA. The equipment cannot come to Malawi until we finish the bunkers project,” Kuyeli said.
He added that if the cancer centre misses the October deadline, then the equipment cannot come and this means Malawi would also lose out on the loan money.
The project also risks losing out on equipment funding under Rays of Hope, an IAEA initiative, which is tied to the October deadline.
Projects included in the initiative, based on sustainability, build or strengthen radiation safety legislation and infrastructure and provide quality control, guidance, training and equipment.
Meanwhile, members of the Health Committee of Parliament have expressed concern over the delays, wondering whether government is serious about funding the centre.
“This project started eight years ago and that time, the project was only to last three years. Now, eight years down the line, nothing has happened except just constructing the building.
“The most important component of the centre is the bunkers because they make cancer treatment possible,” the committee’s chairperson Mathews Ngwale said.
He also feared that the centre may take more years before it can start offering treatment.
MNCC is currently operating administratively as a department under Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).
It provides closely integrated oncology and palliative care services in partnership with other departments at KCH, Baylor College of Medicine and University of North Carolina Project, for the Central and Northern regions while aiming to expand nationally after the completion of its radiotherapy unit.