Malawi Government denies having ‘ghost’ patients in ARV scheme

Ministry of Health says it uses strict measures when registering and deregistering patients into the Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) scheme, which makes it difficult for anyone to be enrolled fraudulently.

Public Relation Officer (PRO) in the ministry, Henry Chimbali, disclosed this to Malawi News Agency (Mana) recently in a questionnaire response amid rumours that the country’s ART distribution system accommodates ghost recipients.

Chimbali further said there is no way one could be a ghost Anti Retroviral Drug (ARV) beneficiary looking at the procedures the ministry follows to register patients.

“What may happen is perhaps abusing the drugs in form of sharing among patients themselves and maybe, misusing them in other ways not known to us, but not being found in the system fraudulently,” said the ministry’s publicist.

Chimbali: No ghost patients

He added that the ministry also counsels patients suspected to have been involved in misusing the drugs because it has a way of detecting any drugs misuse.

“At our ARV distributing points, we do physical pill counting to check if the drugs that were supposed to remain are there. If they are missing, we assume that the alleged patient has misused the drugs, hence forward him to responsible people so that he should be disciplined.

“There are several ways on how one is put on ART. It depends on several factors but major components are to determine the HIV status and CD4 count in other facilities. But overall, we use the World Health Organisation [WHO] clinical staging process which makes one eligible for ART unless there is some emerging issue,” said Chimbali.

He added that his ministry recommends guardians of the deceased who was receiving ARVs to assist in making sure that the deceased has been deregistered.

“We do recommend to the guardians at the start of receiving the ART that if there is anything including voluntary cessation or death, all the remaining drugs should be retained to the facility where the client was receiving the ART.

“In the case of death, the patient (deceased) is deregistered and his or her file closed. If it is voluntarily stopping, we follow up the patient to understand why the decision was reached,” said the ministry’s publicist.

There have been speculations that some people have been getting ARV fraudulently which others claim is because of the failure by the ministry to deregister people who have died but were on ART treatment.

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