Malawi cholera deaths: Postmortem says ‘poor management of patients’

The District Health Officer for Blantyre, Dr Owen Malemya has blamed the death of 16 cholera patients in the city this year on his staff members’ negligence.

During a postmortem meeting held on Tuesday at the Blantyre City Assembly, Malemya said there was poor case management of cholera patients as they had all the required resources hence no need for patients to die.

“We had medical supplies but clinicians and nurses were leaving cases to Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) such that patients were left without fluid replacements for more than six hours and were dehydrated,” said Malemya.

Njawala: Deaths could have been avoided

Dr Malemya said that element showed that there were attitude problems as some clinicians even refused to enter cholera camps.

“We had several cases of readmission of cholera patients who later died,” said Malemya who added that most of the patients died three to four days after admission.

The DHO told his staff members that cholera patients should survive when they reach a health centre.

“It’s unacceptable for a person to die of diarrhea or cholera. Cholera is manageable and there is no excuse for somebody’s death,” Malemya said.

Blantyre City was among the worst districts hit by cholera as it registered 16 deaths of the 402 reported cases.

The Coordinator for Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response for Blantyre district, Alinafe Hauya said the major cause of the outbreak was lack of safe water, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene practices in the urban areas.

“We discovered that most of the areas from which cholera patients came relied on shallow wells and had toilets along the stream,” Hauya said.

Member of Parliament for Blantyre Kabula, Felix Njawala who is the chairperson of the cholera taskforce for Blantyre, said the resurrection of cholera in the district could have been prevented.

“Officials were relaxed because during the 2010/2011 season the district did not register any case of cholera. Preventive measures for the 2011/2012 season were not put in place and the outbreak hit the district when it was not ready,” observed Njawala.

Njawala said cholera can always be contained if there was collaboration as question for resources was not the issue.

Environmental Health Officer for Blantyre City Council, Patrick Chapweteka admitted that the assembly was failing to address the health challenges its dwellers are prone to.

“There is rapid development of slams where the special amenities like safe water are not provided for because these are unplanned areas like in Masala in Bangwe where people were not spared of the cholera outbreak,” said Chapweteka.

He said repopulation of traditional housing areas has also contributed to poor sanitation and hygiene.

“On a plot intended for one house, you find as many as ten houses built on it which means resources are constrained,” Chapweteka said.

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