Lack of surgery claims 13 at Kamuzu Central Hospital


Dedza East MP, Juliana Lunguzi, has asked government to act swiftly on reports that 13 people have died at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in four months due to lack of surgery materials known as sutures.

Sutures are used to stitch wounds after a surgery.

She told Parliament yesterday that the hospital uses poor quality sutures which can only be used to close simple wounds in casualty or health centres.


“The reports I have from Kamuzu Central Hospital say 13 people have died within four months from complications of the poor quality of sutures,” she said.

Lunguzi said in some instances, patients who are scheduled to undergo surgery have been told to bring their own sutures.

She said this could be as a result of insufficient funding for the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST), which is mandated to purchase all medical materials on behalf of public hospitals in the country.


The lawmaker, who is also Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Health, said in some cases, the hospital has suspended some surgeries due to lack of the materials.

Sources at KCH corroborated Lunguzi’s story, saying CMST previously used to stock Ethicon sutures before switching to the low quality sutures.

“We returned the sutures because of the complications we are facing. We had a total of 15 anastomotic leaks [leakage of contents of the bowels], one died before relap [medical check-up in the abdomen], three went back three times for relaps.

“Seven went back twice for relaps, four went back once for relap. Only two of the 15 survived, 13 died. Is this the way we are going to proceed with surgical cases? It’s not just KCH surgeons, it’s across all the hospitals,” said our source who asked not to be named.

In an email response, CMST Spokesperson, Herbert Chandilanga, said the trust is aware of the hospitals’ concerns and preferences on sutures, but procurement laws are standing in the way of providing quality sutures.

He explained that CMST uses public procurement law which does not specify by brand but rather by generic specifications of items sought.

“By this method, other types of sutures rather than the hospitals’ preference were considered fit and economical. However, surgeons have considered such sutures not so fit for their purpose, hence recommending Ethicon sutures for their acclaimed, tried and tested performance,” Chandilanga said.

He further disclosed that CMST has already engaged the Office of the Director of Public Procurement seeking a ‘No Objection’ on the purchase of the preferred sutures.

Minister of Health, Peter Kumpalume, acknowledged the existence of the problem and said the surgeons already informed the ministry officials and they talked to CMST on the way forward.

He, however, could not comment on the issue of 13 people dying due to the use of low quality sutures.

Kumpalume also said it is not proper for Lunguzi to isolate KCH as the materials that are used in hospitals across the country are the same.

“Central Medical Stores asked for single-sourcing method in procurement to enable it to procure sutures from one company whose sutures the surgeons prefer and say are good for their job. We already asked the office of the ODPP [office of Director of Public Procurement] to allow the single-sourcing method and we expect that everything will be concluded any day,” Kumpalume said.

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