Malawi needs to steps up efforts to address shortage of ventilators in public hospitals —which provide roughly 80 percent of health care services in the country — due to coronavirus (Covid-19) threat as more lives will be lost if the pandemic gets to the country.
The World Health Organization has urged all countries to “optimize the availability” of lung ventilation equipment, which assists or replaces breathing functions for critically ill patients, pumping oxygen into the blood to keep organs functioning.
“Oxygen therapy is the major treatment intervention for patients with severe Covid-19,” the organization said.
All the four central hospitals—Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe, Zomba Central Hospital and Mzuzu Central Hospital—just have a combined 17 respiratory machines available in their intensive care units (ICUs).
According to Ministry of Health source, KCH has five ventilators and one is strictly for Very Important People (VIP), while QECH has four, including one reserved for staff members. Zomba and Mzuzu central hospitals are also surviving on four each.
A Ministry of Health source said ventilator shortages have been known about for years, adding that the government has been “very slow” to address this issue.
The medical experts warn that if the critical shortage of the lifesaving machines is not addressed and the pandemic hits the country, many people will die, urging government to look for extra machines.
Professor Adamson Muula—a senior lecturer in public health at the College of Medicine (CoM)—agrees that lack of adequate ventilators in ICU signals trouble, especially for a pandemic that has more patients surviving on ventilators.
In quotes reported by The Nation daily newspaper, Muula said the Ministry of Health should also be employing the non-employed doctors and nurses to beef up the human resources capacity to respond to the Covid-19 threat.
“We cannot, however, just recruit and deploy newly graduated health workers without retraining in infection prevention and giving them the necessary personal protective equipment,” observed Muula.
Muula also said with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is wise to revise the risk allowance for front-line medical staff from the current meager K1 800.
Government has announced that it has set aside K15 billion to respond to Covid-19, but it has not spelled out how it intends to use this emergency fund.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :