Malawi health watchdog has issued an unprecedented warning about public hospitals ward staffing levels, saying the high nurse-to-patient ratio is “a ticking time-bomb” for the country.
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director, Martha Kwataine, has warned that the understaffing of health workers is unsafe.
Kwataine said research has shown the risk of harm and death increases if a nurse is asked to look after more than eight patients.
According to National Association for Nurses and Midwives in Malawi (Nanm) executive director, Harriet Kapyepye, the ideal number of patients a nurse can serve is 10 in a general ward, one to seven for the labour ward and one to one in the intensive care unit
Statistics released by National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (Nonm) president, Dorothy Ngoma, indicate that at Kamuzu Central Hospital a paediatric ward with 400 patients is assigned five nurses.
At Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital a single nurse tends to 80 or more patients per shift, according to the hospital’s chief administrator Themba Mhango.
And Zomba Central Hospital, chief administrator Thom Chisale disclosed that a nurse is assigned to look after 40 paediatric patients per shift
Kwataines said Ministry of Health should ensure that all hospitals in Mlawi have enough staff to provide safe care, saying understaffing of nurses and doctors could compromise service delivery leading to death of patients.
“The high nurse-patient ratio could lead to loss of lives of Malawians who rely on free medical care in public hospitals due to failure by nurses to provide maximum healthcare service to patients,” Kwataine said as quoted by Weekend Nation.
She persuaded government to encourage training and recruitment of healthcare workers.
Kwataine, however, noted there has been an increase in the number of nurses from 4 500 in 2010 to the current 10 000 — effectively reducing the vacancy rate from 76 percent to 60 percent — to serve a population of about 16 million.
Ministry of Health acting spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, government has since increased the intake of nursing students at KCN to seal the gap and introduced nursing courses at Mzuzu University.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :