Construction of Blantyre District hospital to take years – Malawi minister

Residents of Malawi’s commercial and industrial capital, Blantyre, will have to wait for a few more years before their dreams of having a district hospital are realised.

As big as it is, Blantyre, with a population of over 1.2 million people, is one of the few districts in the country that do not have a district hospital.

For medical help, its residents depend on health centers and the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) which is basically meant to be handling referral cases from other health facilities from across southern Malawi.

For those that can manage, they primarily count on private health services because the public health centers as well as the referral facility hardly ever have drugs.

Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara: Construction will take some time
Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara: Construction will take some time

Amid such worries government has said it does not have funds to construct the long-awaited district hospital which could greatly help to decongest QECH, commonly referred to as Queens Hospital.

Minister of Health, Catherine Gotani Hara, this week indicated construction of the district hospital may take some more years because there is no funds.

She said as a consolation, government will instead construct three modern health centers to assist decongesting QECH.

“As a ministry we are trying to find another partner to assist in the project but in the meantime my ministry will be constructing three modern health centers to help ease the congestion at Queens.

“Government is very much aware that the congestion at Queens is the major problem because of unavailability of a district hospital in Blantyre,” she explained.

The minister said the issue of Blantyre District Hospital was one of her ministry’s priority areas “but because it is a big project, we can’t rush, we need enough funds and that is why government is busy trying to find a partner.”

However, the minister was non-committal whether funds for the three health facilities were readily available.

Similarly she could not disclose where they will be built saying “very soon government will be engaging contractors to start work within the Blantyre catchment area. In terms of specification where and when wait we will provide information to you anytime.”

In 2002 Blantyre almost got a district hospital courtesy of the late Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who pledged to construct it when he visited the country, barely a year after the two countries set up diplomatic ties.

A foundation stone was laid at the site and contractors started working on the 300-bed district hospital at Kameza area but the project fell underway due to political differences after President Bakili Muluzi left office for late Bingu wa Mutharika in 2004.

A decade has now gone without anything with only some structures still standing at the site.

Late last year, Malawi Vice President, Khumbo Kachali, told Parliament when he was still Minister of Health that the country had resumed talks with the Libyan government on the hospital.

“The discussions stopped but now with the change of regime in the country discussions have resumed. The site is still in Libyan hands,” Kachali told the National Assembly when answering a question from Member of Parliament for Blantyre Kabula, Felix Njawala who asked government to consider constructing a district hospital to lessen the burden on Queens, which caters for over half a million people.

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