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Malawi in shortage of physiotherapists

The government has been asked to train more physiotherapists and also upgrade physiotherapy departments in major public hospitals.

Volunteers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) made the call recently when a group of journalists toured Mzuzu Central Hospital (MCH) to appreciate the contributions that the volunteers are making to the facility.

A Japanese physiotherapist, Junichi Natsume, decried lack of expertise among the available staff, thus raising concern that he is at times overwhelmed by the amount of work.

“I have written the Ministry [of Health] several times that I am willing to impart the skills I have in others, but there has been no commitment from the ministry in identifying them. It is worrisome because the demand for physiotherapy is growing every day,” Natsume said.

He further asked authorities to invest in proper equipment instead of relying on well-wishers.

Medical Rehabilitation Technician at MCH, Clara Kamvabingu, said the situation needs quick redress.

She said most of the times they fail to provide adequate care and support to clients with mental and physical disabilities due to lack of capacity.

“None of us is a qualified physiotherapist apart from the Japanese volunteer[Natsume], but then we receive a lot of people for his pair of hands, with a patient requiring not less than 45 minutes to be assisted,” Kamvabingu said.

She said the department attends to up to 25 patients in a day and not less than 200 in a month.

When contacted, spokesperson in the Ministry of Health, Adrian Chikumbe, admitted that the government is facing challenges in training and recruiting health specialists.

“Actually, we are improving because there is a special school for technicians in Blantyre, and the College of Medicine is also offering a degree programme on physiotherapy,” Chikumbe said.

Jica has been dispatching volunteers to African countries including Malawi under Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOVC) since 1965.

At the moment, there are 68 Japanese volunteers stationed in several districts across the country. They work in fields of speech therapy, physiotherapy, public health and nursing, among others.

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