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Nurses crisis hits Mzimba North

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As President Peter Mutharika’s administration is planning to stop 330 newly-qualified nurses from working due to funding constraints, some health centres in Mzimba have insufficient medical personnel and have resorted to using casual labourers to administer drugs on patients.

Health Advisory Committees (HACs) in Mzimba North Constituency health centres have since appealed to the government for more nurses.

Malawi News has established that the five health facilities in Mzimba North have either one or no nurse.

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For instance, at Luvwere Health Centre, there has never been a nurse for the past 12 years.

“There is one medical officer and four health surveillance assistants. Care for patients is compromised. Things are not working there,” said Luvwere Health Advisory Committee chairperson John Chiumia.

At Thunduwike Health Centre, there is one nurse, and sometimes labourers are engaged to administer drugs on patients.

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“That is not good. That is dangerous. We complained to the DHO but there is nothing happening,” said Alex Nkhata, HAC chairperson for Thunduwike Health Centre where there is also one medical officer against 8, 000 people.

At Kabwafu Health Centre, there is also one nurse serving 14, 000 people and yet the facility registers an average of six deliveries per day.

“Because of the shortage of nurses, we ask husbands to assist in the delivery of their wives. We also encourage women to assist one another,” said Kabwafu Health Centre HAC chairperson Onias Chisi.

Against the population of 45, 000 at Mpherembe Health Centre, there was one old retired nurse who has since been replaced by a male nurse last month.

“We need at least two nurses at our heath centre. One nurse cannot withstand the pressure of work here,” Mpherembe HAC chairperson, Titus Jere, said.

The only nurse/midwife technician at Engucwini Health Centre, Esther Zulu, said she does not have time to rest as she serves a population of 16,700 people.

While there is shortage of nurses in many rural health centres, government has told 330 nurses it employed to stop working because it has no money to pay their salaries.

Malawi Health Equity Network and National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives (NONM)

have spoken against the decision.

NONM chairperson, Dorothy Ngoma, has warned the government that it would face legal action if it dumps the nurses because the country does not have adequate nurses in its health facilities.

Ministry of Health zone officer for the Northern Region, Owen Musopole, said rural health facilities have shortage of staff because medical persennel refuse to go there because of poor living conditions.

Musopole asked the ministry to devise a mechanism that would ensure that medical personnel are available in rural facilities.

According to Society of Medical Doctors and Medical Doctors Union of Malawi, Malawi has only 37 nurses and midwives for every 100,000 people.

Ministry of Health officials were locked up in a meeting yesterday but the spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said last week that although an agreement was made between Treasury and Department of Human Resource Management and Development to employ the 330 nurses and 51 doctors, the ministry would not be able to pay them.

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