Dilapidated rooms in some public hospitals are dampening the spirits of those that seek cure for their ailments. SAM KALIMIRA writes.
Ryne Nyirenda, 56, who has a sister admitted to Rumphi District Hospital, gets worried whenever rainclouds gather in the sky.
She has to ensure there always is a bucket under the bed for trapping water leaking through the roof of the female ward when rain falls.
“Our garments often get wet. Some leakages directly get to patients,” Nyirenda says.
The 220-bed hospital officially opened in 1970. Its wards are always congested.
The female ward, which is supposed to accommodate 16 beds, has 24, starkly throwing spanners in efforts to sustain social distancing, one of the prescribed practices in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Gogo Florence Kumwenda, who is in her 80s and is one of the guardians to a daughter in the same ward, mostly spends her time outside the ward due to congestion.
“Where can we complain about this problem? Do you think they can listen to us? No way; we will just be watching,” Kumwenda says.
Rumphi District Hospital is one of the district facilities that are in dilapidated state in the country.
The facility leaks in almost all the wards, corridors and other structures. Many of the toilets do not have running water as pipes were blocked.
Another guardian, Lydia Kanyasko, says using the toilets means pouring water into bowls to drain down the waste.
“The situation is dire. There always is that threat of contracting diseases. Hospitals should generally be hygienic places.
“Authorities should at least repair the toilets. Otherwise, sometimes the stench from the facilities is just too much,” Kanyasko said.
Rumphi District Hospital Executive Committee Chairperson Manase Mhango concurs with the guardians, suggesting that the entire hospital needs rehabilitation.
Mhango says roof leakages, blocked toilets and congestion are problems that should not be taken for granted as they contribute to poor healthcare service delivery.
He adds that the 28-bed maternity ward is currently accommodating around 72 pregnant women.
“The hospital is very old such that most structures are in dilapidated condition. The resources it gets are even not enough to meet the needs of patients,” Mhango says.
Authorities at the hospital refused to comment on the raised concerns.
But Rumphi Residents Association Executive Director, Walita Moir Mkandawire, urges the government to construct a new hospital in Rumphi, saying renovating the old one would be more costly.
Mkandawire says the district did not benefit from the government’s initiative of constructing new healthcare facilities in the Northern Region. Mzimba and Nkhata Bay are among those with new facilities.
“In its current state, Rumphi District Hospital is denying people in the district access to quality healthcare services,” she says.
Other district hospitals that have similar challenges are Karonga and Kasungu.
Karonga Director of Health and Social Welfare, David Sibale, recently said the hospital is struggling with water bills because the water system at the facility is old and has many leakages.
“It needs serious maintenance. The leakages of water further affect the hospital’s structures,” Sibale says.
In Kasungu, the district hospital, which was constructed in the 1960s, is always congested apparently due to the rise in population.
Infrastructure Management Coordinator in the Ministry of Health, Sanderson Kuyeli, says the ministry is aware of the problems and that it has started addressing them by, among other things, constructing new facilities and doing maintenance works.
He cites Chikwawa District as the first to be provided with a new hospital.
However, Kuyeli said the ministry is not yet ready to construct new hospitals in Rumphi, Kasungu and Karonga but that the facilities will benefit from the District Hospital Rehabilitation Project which aims at rehabilitating dilapidated structures.
“We are aware that some hospitals are in dilapidated state and we, as a ministry, are them. We hope that, in the next financial year, more hospitals will be allocated resources,” he states. focusing on rehabilitating
Kuyeli further says the ministry plans to rehabilitate all central hospitals come the 2021/22 financial year.
But Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director, George Jobe, wants government to seriously consider suggestions of constructing new hospitals.
Jobe says, in essence, the existing facilities need replacement.
“We pushed for the construction of Nkhata Bay District Hospital and it worked. We are saying it can also be good for other districts to have modern facilities with modern equipment so that healthcare service delivery is not compromised,” Jobe says.
Malawi’s Constitution stipulates that the State is obliged “to provide adequate healthcare commensurate with the health needs of Malawian society and international standards of health care”.
However, some hospitals constructed decades ago are failing to provide quality healthcare services, frustrating efforts towards universal health coverage.