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Four years of agony

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By Stevie Chauluka:

IN PAIN—Phwitika

To 41-year-old Mabvuto Phwitika, the past four years have been a nightmare as he has seen his abilities gradually diminish due to an illness that has brought what he calls the worst agony in his life.

The father-of-five says the change in his life started in 2015.

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“I was finding it difficult to pass urine. I was feeling a lot of pain in the process. Life is tough,” Phwitika says.

The pain that he was feeling took him to Chiradzulu District Hospital on August 30 2015 where doctors detected a tumour in his urethra that was blocking urine and causing the pain.

“They inserted a catheter to help drain urine from the urinary bladder and they referred me to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital [Qech]. At Qech, they discharged me the same day, advising me to come again after two weeks.

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“When I went back at the lapse of a fortnight, I was told to come back another day. Sometimes, when I went on a day they booked me, I was told that they were attending to emergencies. This kept on happening for a period of two years and my condition remained the same,” he said.

Still, when Phwitika had a chance of getting to a theatre room for a check-up, he says, nothing changed.

The pain stuck around as it is doing today.

“When I nearly gave up, officials at Qech told me that the facility has no doctor for my condition. They referred me to Kamuzu Central Hospital where I underwent two operations.

“Nothing changed and I am still with the catheter which I have lived with for four years now,” Phwitika said dolefully.

Qech Administrator, Themba Mhango, admitted to have known Phwitika who changed his name to Matias Master apparently after getting spiritual advice to avoid his name ‘Mabvuto’ as it could be the source of his illness.

“His condition requires urological specialists and we don’t have such an expert at our facility. The one we had moved to Mzuzu; he is a catholic priest. That is why we sent him (Phwitika) to Kamuzu Central Hospital because there are two urologists there,” Mhango said.

Phwitika, on the other hand, feels it would help him if people of good will assisted him to access expert medical treatment abroad. He is, however, not aware if doctors in Malawi recommended that he go for treatment elsewhere.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Joshua Malango, said government sends only those patients who are recommended by specialist doctors to go for expert treatment in other countries.

“A patient has to be treated by our specialist doctors in the country. But when they see the need for a patient to go for further help, they write a recommendation letter that is assessed by a referral committee at the referral facility.

“It is then sent to the Ministry of Health where such a patient is put on a waiting list. It should also be understood that we prioritise children. If we have a child on the list of people going for expert treatment, we send them first and that is what happens elsewhere in the world,” Malango said.

He also promised to check with experts if Phwitika is in a condition that requires treatment in other countries.

Executive Director of Malawi Health Equity Network, George Jobe, said Malawi’s failure to provide some expert treatment to its people hits the poor most some of whom die from treatable conditions.

“This means there are people who are suffering and they have nowhere to go. There is need, therefore, for Malawi to do an assessment on the critical services that require specialist doctors, and then we should invest in human resources by training people and invest in equipment so that we save Malawians.

“In a case where a specialist is only in the Central Region, it should be the responsibility of the government to meet all the costs of that patient to go to the other referral hospital.

“Priority should also be put on services which we cannot offer so that government quickly facilitates external trips for people to get help,” Jobe says.

The condition of Phwitika, who once was the breadwinner of his family, has left him with no strength and reduced him to a panhandler.

“I am reduced to a beggar now because I cannot even support my own family. I am married and have five children but I hardly fetch for them. I was forced to send my children to the village to stay with their grandmother because I cannot provide for them. I am only remaining with my wife who is struggling to support me,” he said.

His biggest prayer is that Good Samaritans will crop up from somewhere and help him in feeling good again.

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