KCH run out of lifesaving IV fluids: Malawi hospitals ‘waiting rooms for death’

Malawi’s  public hospitals are becoming waiting rooms for death with shortages of treatment, the recent being the case of  Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe where there is shortage of  intravenous fluids  (IV fluids), no syringes and no blood for sick children.

Doctors at the health facilities who spoke to Nyasa Times said they are reeling under a shortage of life saving IV fluid.

The sources said the condition is such that KCH is not receiving the bottles of IV fluids from Central Medical Stores.

“There are no IV fluids, no syringes or cannulas, and no blood at KCH for sick children,” said the source.

A nurse at Kamuzu Central Hospital in where there are about two doctors and 59 nurses for every 100,000 people. Photograph: Sean Smith

One doctor said in most circumstance, they are “literally watching patients die of correctable illnesses.”

Recently, a senior anaesthetic clinical officer at KCH, William Banda,  also disclosed that most anaesthesia machines in the country’s public hospitals are near obsolete and need replacement,

Banda said most of the machines were procured in the late 1980s, hence the need for new ones.

“Most have become non-functional and we can no longer get spare parts for them. Servicing is done at local level and it’s very poor.

“These use gas and delivery of gas is questionable and this poses a danger to patients undergoing surgery,” said Banda, who also heads anaesthetic training at Malawi College of Health Sciences.

According to Banda, Malawi could not reduce maternal deaths if there was ineffective anaesthesiology during operations.

The development comes after published reports indicated that surgeries are erratic at Malawi’s major referral hospital, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in the commercial capital Blantyre, leading to an average number of 20 patients in a month missing surgical treatment.

More than five patients were declared inoperable in the last four months having missed operations due to lack of cidex and gauze which are critical for a surgical operation, according to a report in the Weekend Nation of January 19.

The paper quoted QECH chief hospital administrator, Themba Mhango, who confirmed the erratic supply of cidex solution and gauze during the past four months.

“In general, there have been erratic medical supplies, including gauze and cidex solution for the obvious reason that Central Medical Stores Trust did not have the said items in stock during the period in question.

“We managed to source cidex solution from private suppliers after realising the one we had in stock had expired,” Mhango is quoted saying.

Officials from Malawi’s ministry of health and child welfare could not be reached for comment.

Government is on record to have pleaded for patience as it sorts out the mess created by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime under the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.

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