OPC sits on health report for 5 years
By Cathy Maulidi:
The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has come under fire for sitting on a report containing recommendations to transform central hospitals into centres of excellence, five years after it was submitted.
The report was adopted after former president Bingu wa Mutharika died of cardiac arrest on April 5 2012.
The former president’s death at Kamuzu Central Hospital exposed central hospitals’ lack of capacity to handle some diseases.
This forced stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, Medical Doctors Association of Malawi and the Parliamentary Committee on Health to go back to proposals drafted in 1999 that suggested elevation of the country’s central hospitals into centers of excellence or autonomous hospitals.
In 2018, stakeholders discussed and adopted the report, which was sent to OPC for consideration and approval to allow implementation of the proposals.
If implemented, central hospitals will be offering specialised treatment which is usually accessed in hospitals outside the country.
Chairperson for the Health Committee of Parliament Mathews Ngwale said the report proposes that central hospitals should be transformed into centres of excellence to treat crucial diseases.
“If our country’s central hospitals had capacity, Bingu could not have died. So, the Bingu incident taught us that we need to improve our health sector.
“The Parliamentary Committee on Health already signed the report, the Ministry of Health did; this also applies to other stakeholders. What remains now is for the Office of the President and Cabinet to sign so that implementation of the processes should commence.
“We are surprised that the Office of the President and Cabinet is not signing the report. We summoned the Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba to find out why but she did not come. We summoned the former SPC Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, he also did not come. This is worrisome. All we want is for the report to be signed and for implementation to commence,” Ngwale said.
Zamba did not answer our calls.
Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda asked for more time to learn about the status of the report.
But in an interview Tuesday, hospital director and medical specialist at Kamuzu Central Hospital Jonathan Ngoma concurred with Ngwale that the report is still at the OPC awaiting approval.
According to Ngoma, the country’s central hospitals would transform quickly if they were left to manage and govern their resources.
“It’s half autonomy. What we are saying is hands-off central hospitals and just have eyes on them. We have qualified individuals, very educated people; so, don’t talk about capacity.
“We have capacity to run the hospitals. And, I assure you, if that is done, not long from now we will elevate the central hospitals to that high status,” Ngoma said.
Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director George Jobe said the elevation of the country’s central hospitals into centres of excellence is key to improving health outcomes.
“There are many benefits. If every disease is treated in Malawi, the country can save forex.
“At the moment, we are spending a lot of forex referring cases abroad because our country’s central hospitals cannot treat some diseases such as cancer and heart problems,” Jobe said.
In November last year, Kandodo Chiponda told Parliament that Malawi spends $2 million on patient referrals annually.
She said referring patients outside the country continues to drain forex as, at that time, government had over 400 patients waiting to go for treatment abroad.
She said most cases demanding referral abroad relate to cancer and heart problems.