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Debts besiege hospitals

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Some District Hospitals across the country are failing to meet some of their obligations due to huge debts that they have accumulated for over two years now.

The debts, according to our investigations, include utility bills like water and electricity, stationary and food stuffs.

We have further found that that most of the hospitals have not been provided with the required amount of funds in the form of Other Recurrent Transactions (ORT) from government.

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As of August 15, Machinga District Health office, which has 22 health centres, was owing various suppliers over K260 million.

Mangochi, which has over 46 health centres, is owing suppliers mainly for water and electricity about K64 million.

Nkhata Bay, Mwanza, Thyolo, Chitipa, Salima Mulanje, Nsanje, Lilongwe and Blantyre DHOs are other facilities with huge debts.

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Machinga District Commissioner Rosemary Nawasha recently told Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Lingson Belekanyama that the huge debt at the DHO is undermining the gains which the district is making to ensure universal access to health services.

“The debts have been there for the past two years. At the moment we are also being overloaded because patients from Balaka District are visiting our hospital following a fire incident which gutted down part of Balaka Hospital,” Nawasha said.

In a separate interview, Director of Health and Social Services for Mangochi Henry Chibowa Jr said the ORT which the hospital receives annually is not enough to cater for the needs of all the health centres under the district.

Chibowa said the government has been providing a K500 million budget ceiling for the district, an amount which he said is not enough to meet its health needs.

“The funds are meant for fuel for ambulances, generators when electricity is off, water and electricity, and other recurrent transactions for all our health centres. Sometimes, we are also not given the funds according to our allocation,” Chibowa said.

Chibowa was, however, grateful for the direct support which the hospitals receive from donors. He further appealed to government to consider increasing their budgetary ceiling so that the hospitals can easily meet some of its obligations.

In an interview when he visited Machinga and Balaka districts recently, Belekanyama said his ministry will try to lobby Treasury and the Ministry of Health to fully devolve the health sector to address some of the identified budgetary challenges.

“Some of these challenges are coming because the central government is still holding on to powers despite that the country adopted devolution of power to local councils.

“We need to allow the councils to start managing their resources as well as speak to donors and other partners. It is the wish of the government that all sectors should start afresh by clearing the mess which is limiting service delivery,” Belekanyama said.

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