Malawi hospitals hit with shortage of essential supplies

Public hospitals across the country are facing a scarcity in essential drugs and equipment, a development which a social commentator has said is life threatening to millions of lives who cannot afford private health services.

Jackson Msiska told Nyasa Times on Thursday that it was imperative that the government ensures that the hospitals are sufficiently stocked soonest.

Dr Jonathan Ngoma, director of Kamuzu Central Hospital

“It is unfortunate,” Msiska said. “Government needs to make sure that essentials in hospitals including drugs and equipment are made available in hospitals at all times knowing pretty well that most of the country’s population depends on free health services.”

Among others, some of the crucial drugs and medical supplies not available in most district hospitals include Diazepam, Dental Lignocaine, Dextrose, Salbutamol, Thiopental and insulin syringes used for the treatment of patients with low blood pressure, convulsions, asthma attacks and during surgery.

Nkhata Bay District Hospital director of health and social services, Mwatikondera Mbendera, said for a year now the hospital had not been supplied with 100 percent of drug requests.

“The situation is resulting in unnecessary referrals to Mzuzu Central Hospital,” Mbendera said.

In Karonga, the district’s director of health and social services, David Sibale, said the situation was not good.

“Whenever necessary, we have been checking with other facilities when we need drugs that are not in stock,” Sibale said.

Kamuzu Central Hospital director, Jonathan Ngoma, acknowledged that Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) occasionally runs out of supplies and that during such times they buy medicines privately to ensure continued availability of essential drugs.

CMST is the major government-owned supplier of medicines and medical supplies to public hospitals.

Its spokesman, Herbert Chandilanga, asked for more time before he could comment on the matter.

But Ministry of Health spokesman, Adrian Chikumbe, also distanced himself from commenting saying they, too, were waiting for an explanation from CMST on the reasons behind their failure to supply essential drugs to hospitals.

Chikumbe said the ministry was exploring means of helping facilities that have been hit by the problem of drug shortage by, among other things, reverting to the system under which hospitals can procure medicines from private pharmacies as they wait for CMST.

“We are aware that we have a shortage of medicines in several public facilities and we are supposed to procure these medicines through the Central Medical Stores Trust but we are also waiting for an explanation from them to know what the problem is,” he is quoted as saying in the local press.

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