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‘Hospital staff selling embalming chemicals’

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Due to inadequate supply of embalming chemicals in some public hospitals in the country, some hospital officials are cashing in on the desperation of bereaved families by charging irregular prices for the service which was otherwise supposed to be free.

That is according to people in Mzimba North where they say health officials at Mzuzu Central Hospital demand money in excess of K30, 000 to have the remains of the deceased embalmed.

Sub-Traditional Authority Yohane Jere said they are forced to pay the money because they have no alternative of where such a services could be accessed.

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Jere alleged that officials from the referral hospital claim they have their own means of securing the chemicals, hence the demand for the money.

“Mortuary attendants are seemingly on business instead of doing the government job. They will tell you there are no drugs to treat the remains of our beloved departed relations and then they tell you if we give them about K30,000 they could help find the embalming solution,” he claimed.

Officials from the central hospital could not be drawn into commenting despite various attempts yesterday.

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But District Medical Officer for Mzimba North Health Office Shadreck Ngwira conceded the short supply of the embalming solution, describing the situation as sad.

“This is a sad development because when you are befallen with a funeral its tragic already; so to be asked to pay money for a service that was supposed to be free is not good.

“We would have loved that the solution should be found in abundance and that embalming should be done easily,” he said.

Commenting on the issue, Member of Parliament for the area—Mzimba North East— Catherine Gotani Hara, who is also speaker of National Assembly, said she would engage Minister of Health to investigate the matter.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the ministry is aware of the shortage of the embalming solutions.

“The issue is on resources. We do not have adequate resources to cater for such a service because it is also not on priority list. Our core function is to manage the sick. This means that we must have drugs of which embalming drugs or solutions are not part of the list,” he said.

Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director, George Jobe, said the trend is worrying, imploring the government to bring in sanity to the problem.

Jobe said due to the scarcity, some health officials in public health setups have developed parallel structures where prices for embalming a corpse fluctuate as there is no regulation.

“This issue has been causing problems; it is now coming out clear that the service is private. In other public hospitals, people are asked to pay even more. So what we are saying is there should be sanity. The charge should be formalised so that people are prepared. There is no way health officials should be running their own private entities in public hospitals,” he said.

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