The government might be causing deaths of the majority poor by denying them access to quality healthcare. In Nyamawende Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Zulu, Mchinji District, a boy wakes up every day to excruciating pain because his guardians and the government cannot afford K4 million for travel to India for special treatment. The boy’s is a life of misery due to negligence as WATIPASO MZUNGU, in this Times Friday Shaker, explored this week:
Fourteen-year-old boy (name withheld) prays for his last day on earth to come fast so that he can rest from the excruciating pain from three catheters inserted beneath his navel.
A catheter is a flexible tube inserted through a narrow opening into a body cavity, particularly the bladder, for removing fluid.
The boy’s father, too, a Mr Banda, has grudgingly come to terms with his child’s shattered life in shark he shares with his other three children at Nyamawende Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Zulu, Mchinji District.
“I cannot bear it anymore. I would like to die. The government and the public health system have rejected me,” the boy says as he fights back tears.
The boy has lived with the catheters since December 2013.
They boy’s father says it all started on December 6 2018 when his peers frightened him that armed nyau / gulewamkulu (masked dancers) were approaching a tree he had climbed to pluck fruits.
Eventually, the boy fell off the tree and, in the process, broke his urinary tract. Banda says dusk had just begun when the incident happened.
But Banda dared the nightfall and took his son to Mchinji District Hospital for treatment but the medical personnel reportedly refused to operate on the broken bladder of the boy.
“They told me that they didn’t have capacity to handle the situation,” Banda says.
However, the medical officers inserted a catheter and prescribed the boy with painkillers before discharging him.
This did not help matters as, each passing hour; the boy’s urinary bladder was ballooning, leaving him crying day and night.
This prompted Banda to, the following morning, cycle with the boy back to Mchinji Hospital where a medical officer examined him using the ultra-sound scanning machine.
The officer found “High density fluid seen in urinary bladder? Blood? Catheter balloon not seen in urinary bladder on u/s (ultra-sound) scan.”
Due to lack of capacity at the hospital, the medical personnel referred him to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).
But there was no ambulance to take the boy to KCH.
“So, I pleaded with the hospital personnel at Mchinji District Hospital to look after my son until I could mobilise resources to enable me take him to the hospital. But they couldn’t allow me, saying they were afraid. After pleading with them at length, they grudgingly accepted to admit the child. At this time, every healthcare worker [at Mchinji District Hospital] was in tears because of how bad the situation of my child had become,” Banda explains.
When he mobilised enough resources, Banda took the boy to KCH where he was admitted for 12 months. But his condition worsened.
For instance, on May 29 2015, a urologist (a specialist in urinary system) at KCH observed that the boy’s problem required specialist attention abroad.
On June 4 2015, KCH doctors discovered that the boy was not passing out stools (faeces) properly despite eating.
Additionally, he was suffering from abdominal pains. Eventually, the specialists admitted that they had no solution to the boy’s problem.
The doctors then recommended that he should be referred to India to undergo surgery and specialist treatment.
However, since that time the government has systematically abandoned the boy by stating that it does not have K4 million needed for his travel and treatment abroad.
The boy is probably among millions of poor Malawians who are sailing in this boat.
In Salima District, a nine-year-old Standard Three pupil is appealing for legal assistance to enable him drag the government to court to claim compensation for his amputated hand.
On February 16 2018, officials at the hospital amputated the arm of the boy, whose identities we have concealed on ethical grounds, after he sustained “a minor injury on his arm when he was playing football with his friends” on February 8 2018.
The father of the child, a Bandawe, feels that officials at the hospital acted negligently by, among others, assigning unskilled personnel to fix a Plaster of Paris on the child.
The Salima and Mchinji incidents are not isolated.
Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) in Blantyre is also struggling to treat pregnant women and babies because of delays to attend to emergency situations such as Caesarean sections since its operating theatre is ever full and medical supplies are not enough.
And due to the delays, babies are either born dead (stillborn) or die in the nursery or suffer permanent brain damage, which is discovered later in life.
Additionally, the theatre is ever busy that there is no much time to sterilise equipment and this puts women and newborn babies at risk of infections (sepsis).
One out of every 37 children in Malawi dies in the first month and 80 percent of these deaths are due to prematurity, complications during birth or infections such as pneumonia and sepsis, reads part of a report by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) titled Every Child Alive released early this year.
Due to congestion at Qech, the facility’s 24-bed labour ward is not enough to accommodate women in need.
We cannot even talk about patients sleeping on the floor as most corridors of the hospital operate like wards.
Healthcare workers, too, admit being overwhelmed and frustrated by the system because patients are not assisted accordingly due to lack of essential medical supplies and equipment.
Mchinji Director of Health and Social Services, Juliana Kanyengambeta, says she cannot comment competently on Collings’ matter because she was not at the facility when the boy sought medical treatment.
Kanyengambeta, therefore, referred The Daily Times to KCH.
However, Kanyengambeta says referral to foreign hospitals goes through a rigorous process, which might have delayed the Mchinji boy’s flight to India for specialist medical attention.
“There is a committee that assesses whether a patient is, indeed, fit to be flown abroad or the case can be treated locally. So, it is not just a matter of a doctor recommending a referral abroad. It is a process that undergoes scrutiny by a committee at the ministry,” she explains.
Malango says patients that are referred for treatment outside the country are handled on first-come, first serve basis, adding that the government spends at least K1 billion on the treatment of such cases.
KCH spokesperson Chiyanjano Kazombo says she is not aware of Collings’ issue, while Salima District Hospital senior official refused to comment on the boy whose arm was amputated.
In reaction to the Mchinji boy’s misfortune and amputations of limbs for innocent children at Salima and KCH, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary, Dan Namarika, says he is angered by the developments.
Namarika vows to investigate the matter and ensure that the errant orthopedic surgeons account for their failures.
“What? I cannot believe it. Please, can you find out the identities of the child? I want to follow it up myself. The Ministry doesn’t condone such negligence,” he says.
Mzuzu-based journalist and social commentator, Jackson Msiska, feels that the government is waging war against the minority of the population.
Msiska believes that the government’s health care reforms represent a deliberately prejudiced, vicious attack on a significant minority of the population.
“The shoddy services we are subjected to at public health facilities make a mockery of the government’s; and indeed the President’s [Peter Mutharika] commitment to improving services in the health sector. How can, for instance, Banda and Bandawe and believe the presidential pronouncements in light of the poor services that robbed their sons of limbs and future?” he asks.
The National Initiative for Civic Education Trust District Civic Education Officer for Mchinji, Paul Kanyenda, describes the development a war on the poor.
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