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One gynaecologist serving the whole North

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Lack of specialists in Malawi’s hospitals remains a challenge as is the case in the northern region where all the six districts are being served by one gynaecologist at Mzuzu Central Hospital.

Gynaecology deals with health issues of the female reproductive system.

Eight patients who spoke to The Daily Times from their ward at Mzuzu Central Hospital said the specialist fails to handle the available referral cases in time resulting in panic.

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Mzuzu Central Hospital Public Relations Officer Frank Banda confirmed the shortage of gynaecologists at the hospital and said the matter was already reported to the Ministry of Health.

“Of course we had one gynaecologist but now government has recently employed one, who came on the United Nation Development Programme as volunteer. However, we cannot say that they are enough because this hospital receives a lot of patients from the entire regional districts,” said Banda.

One nurse said the situation at the hospital becomes pathetic especially when the specialist is away for other duties or holiday.

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“Sometimes the doctor goes somewhere to work. It becomes a problem. Sometimes we have to call him back to work after he knocks off. Clinical officers call him for advice or even inviting him to the ward. This is so pathetic because this ward is so busy and it needs five gynaecologists,” said the nurse.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health Adrian Chikumbe admitted the crisis over shortage of personnel in the country’s hospitals arguing that it takes six years to train a specialist.

“Please note that the Ministry of Health is trying its best to provide all core services to as many Malawians as possible. But you will agree with me that human resource is still a challenge. We do not have adequate personnel let alone specialists.

“Malawi had enjoyed an extra hand from UN volunteer Programme that had seen specialist doctors placed in all central hospitals up until last year when the project was closed. However, we are training some doctors as specialists in obstetrics and gynaecology,” said Chikumbe.

Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director Martha Kwataine said Malawi cannot achieve reduction of maternal mortality if the hospitals lack gynaecologists and paediatrics to handle critical cases.

“Apart from training more specialists, we should also create enabling environment for the available specialists in our health facilities. It is not only about salaries but also materials. If you are posting a specialist to central hospital [without tools], it is like a farmer being given a 20 hectare-farm without a tractor,” said Kwataine.

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