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Patients tortured at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital

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Some health workers at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) are torturing patients in Ward 5B by asking them to pay for surgical services.

We have established that this is a non-paying ward, but the health workers are mostly demanding K10, 000 from each patient in need of surgery and, when they fail to pay, their procedure is shifted to another date. The patients are kept waiting, as the procedure date keeps changing until they pay.

Malawi News can reveal that the ‘money hungry’ health workers usually visit the wards on Thursdays and Fridays, and move around the ward following up on issues of this kind of payment.

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“We don’t know their names but it is usually a man in civilian and a lady who puts on a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) uniform. They receive the money right here and no receipts are issued,” said the patients we found in the ward.

The patients disclosed that one is supposed to pay K10, 000 after submitting a blood sample to the main laboratory for tests in order to have their results faster, otherwise they delay or they go missing.

A month ago, Malawi News published a story which exposed the existence of middle men at the country’s central hospitals, a thing which authorities suspected to be a syndicate involving health workers and other members of staff.

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Executive Director for Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) George Jobe said this is a serious issue which needs to be dealt with immediately, as lives of people are at stake.

“We are not sure of how long this has been happening and how many lives we have lost in the process. Now that this issue has been exposed, management of QECH and ministry of health should do something faster to save lives. I don’t think this could be difficult for them to investigate,” he said.

Jobe added that the ministry of health is doing a commendable job in fighting drug theft and the same effort should be invested into curbing the malpractice.

Chief Hospital Administrator for QECH Themba Mhango (who confirmed of the existence of such malpractices at the hospital last month) said it is sad that this is still happening in non-paying wards.

He said patients pay by-pass fees in Out Patient Department (OPD), general antenatal and post-natal patients in ward 1A, Dental.

“Charges vary for the paying services except for by-pass fees which are K2, 500. This is meant to deter primary health cases so that’s why dental and Antenatal clinics in outpatient departments charge,” he said.

“Other paying services include medical reports, medical check up, death reports, embalming, and incineration from outside the hospital. Other semi-independent units that charge include Eye clinic, Neuro surgery and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

“Latest will be Audiology and Paediatric surgical units. They will have some beds for paying patients and others for non-paying patients.

Director of health services in the ministry of health Dr Charles Mwansambo told Malawi News last month that services in all hospitals are for free and the services are provided on equity basis.

“It is illegal for the middlemen to be operating within our facilities, let alone connive with officers. It is torture for very sick and desperate patients to be charged for services that are supposed to be for free,” he said.

Mwansambo said the ministry has also received reports about some junior officers charging accident victims to pay for Plaster of Paris.

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