Malawi loses battle against cross-border treatment
The Ministry of Health has said, even though it understands that foreign nationals are draining resources and overwhelming the country’s health facilities, there is nothing it can do to address the situation.
Ministry of Health spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, told Malawi News on Monday that this is the case because Malawi does not have national identity cards.
“Most facilities are [located] along the borders. We are not even supposed to deny [sic] treatment to foreigners when they come,” Chikumbe said.
However, Chikumbe said the ministry is aware of the challenges that Malawians face when they seek treatment in neighbouring countries. They are either asked to pay or denied treatment altogether.
But Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director, George Jobe, maintained in a separate interview that the issue of foreigners draining the country’s medical resources needs to be addressed.
“Our budget is already inadequate and the allocation is now based on the number of people in a district. If we ignore this problem now, we are creating a crisis bigger than the one we have,” Jobe said.
Jobe said the country needs to finalise work being implemented under the national identification programme.
Human rights activist Kossam Munthali said it is unfortunate that the ministry does not want to deal with lapses in its system.
“When there is a problem, there is always a solution— whether permanent or a temporary one. In this case, we need a solution that should be working until every Malawian has a national identity card, which they can present to access treatment at health facilities,” Munthali said.
In a related development, Malawi News has learnt that three weeks ago, a Tanzanian national accessed free services when he underwent an operation at Nkhata Bay District Hospital. The services would have cost him an equivalent of K500,000 in Tanzania.
Even though President Peter Mutharika launched the national identification system last year, only nine million Malawians will have identity cards by the end of 2017.
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