MoH struggles to repair crucial equipment


Ministry of Health’s department of Physical Assets Management (PAM), which manages hospital equipment, is failing to maintain life-saving equipment or even replacing them due to underfunding and lack of skilled engineers.

The Daily Times has learnt that the department received K30 million in its 2015/2016 budget but it needs about K1 billion per year to do proper maintenance of all hospital equipment.

To procure equipment, the department needs about K3 billion each year for the next four years and the bill may be reduced to K1 billion thereafter.


Ministry of Health’s Deputy Director for Physical Assets Management, Doctor Lovemore Mkukuma, confirmed these issues.

He added that his department is faced with lack of spare parts particularly due to too many brands of equipment of the same type in hospitals.

“Just to mention a few, there are over 35 brands of oxygen concentrators in our hospitals, eight brands of x-ray machines etc. It becomes very difficult to stock spares for all brands of equipment in the hospitals,” he revealed.


He added: “Meanwhile Government wants to start streamlining procurement of equipment to a maximum of three brands per type of equipment. This policy will also apply to donated equipment. We shall accept a donation of equipment which falls in the brand range stipulated in our guidelines.”

Mkukuma further disclosed that last year, the department bought spare parts worth K134 million for 21 autoclaves (sterilising equipment) of one brand for the country’s hospitals.

The Daily Times can also reveal that the department is also failing to maintain the country’s hospital equipment due to inadequate engineers and lack of skills to handle sophisticated equipment.

“There are no positions under which to recruit the maintenance engineers. A proposed draft functional review was submitted three years ago but it has not seen the light of the day yet.

“Therefore, we need that functional review to be concluded so that we recruit engineers and technicians from our local universities and then send them to the Malawi University of Science and Technology where they can undergo specialist training to qualify as biomedical engineers,” Mkukuma said.

As a result of this, his department also outsources the maintenance to other service providers either because such providers have ready access to spare parts on the market or because the machine is too sophisticated for government engineers.

In the meantime, some sets of equipment are supposed to be on service contract and it would require about K722 million per year for the department to pay for such services.

Reacting to the revelation, Executive Director for Health and Rights Education Programme, Maziko Matemba, said repairing hospital equipment is a challenge as funding to those areas is minimal but also most hospital equipment are donations whose spare parts are either expensive or difficult to be repaired by local technicians.

“The ministry needs to enforce its procurement and hospital donation policies so that the country only accepts equipment that is easy to repair and replace,” he said.

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