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Poor road affects referrals at Neno District hospital

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While most health facilities in the country are complaining about insufficient drugs, medical supplies and health personnel, Neno’s case appears a little different as the newly-constructed district hospital suffers under-utilisation.

This is due to the district’s poor road network which results in patients from far-flung places failing to access medical attention at the facility, as the district is mountainous and has no tarmac road.

Speaking in an interview on Wednesday on the sidelines of a Family Planning Association (Fpam) Neno Youth Life Centre official opening ceremony, the district’s health officer (DHO), Stanley Mwalwanda, said the situation is worse during the rainy season.

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He added that the hospital has also problems referring cases to the nearest tertiary facility, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), due to the same poor road network.

The two main roads, which essentially connect the district with Blantyre, remain without tarmac 12 years after former president Bakili Muluzi declared Neno a district.

Mwalwanda, whose concern over the poor road network was echoed by Neno District Commissioner, Memory Montello, said the poor conditions of the district’s roads further exact a heavy toll on ambulances as they experience regular breakdowns.

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“The terrain of the road is not good. We incur a lot of costs in maintaining ambulances which easily break down, and most of them are grounded, especially during the rainy season. We really need government help,” said Mwalwanda.

He was optimistic that Minister of Health, Jean Kalilani, who presided over the opening of the Fpam Youth Life Centre, will lobby for the construction of a good road after getting a picture of their problems.

On her part, Montello said the poor road network in Neno remains a major concern to the district’s citizens who find it difficult to connect with its neighbours.

“It is my prayer that Hon. Minister, you will take the matter to the government and perhaps discuss it with the rest of cabinet members so that something is done regarding the conditions of the roads here,” said Montello.

According to Mwalwanda, the condition of Neno, which makes it practically detached from its neighbouring districts, further demoralises hospital personnel.

He said: “When people are posted here, only one out of five remains in

the district because it is neglected. Since its establishment [as a district] we have never had any tarmac road. Even staff houses are very few.”

Some hospital personnel whom Malawi News interviewed said they continued working in the district simply because they had nowhere else to go. The civil servants, most of them in the first years of their careers, warned that they would leave once they gained experience.

“Of course, I will gladly welcome any opportunity to leave Neno because it is obvious that we are neglected here. No one seems to care and it sometimes becomes difficult for us to work,” said one healthcare worker who refused to be named.

The Health Minister said most issues raised by officials and residents from Neno would also be presented to relevant authorities for action.

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