Minister of Health and Population Atupele Muluzi said his ministry is actively pursuing a policy of ensuring that people, including those in remote areas, do not travel for more than eight kilometres before accessing health facilities.
He said this in the National Assembly in Lilongwe responding to a question raised by Member of Parliament MP for Kasungu East Madalitso Kazombo (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) .
Kazombo in the year 2015 mobilised his constituents to stage a vigil at the district commissioner’s office to force government to construct a health centre at Kapyanga in Traditional Authority (T/A) Wimbe.
In his response, Muluzi said Ministry of Health and Population policy is that no person walks more than eight kilometres to access a health facility. He said most of the health centres will have maternity wings.
“It still remains at 8 kilometre radius or within distances to the nearest health facility and we have not changed. This is being provided for under the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP2), which was recently adopted by the ministry and will also be circulated to Honourable Members within the next few days,” said Muluzi.
He said the HSSP2 is very clear and the National Health Policy that the ministry has which is being we revised, is also looking at 8 kilometres within distances.
“ However, it also very much depends on the geographical location of the area or the topography of the area, that also is taken into consideration. The disease burden of the area as well, is also considered, and therefore there could be consideration with regards to waiving this particular policy. But it still remains at 8 kilometres between the various health facilities that we have,” said Muluzi.
In terms of nurses, Muluzi said the ministry is in the process of recruiting additional nurses.
“We were supposed to recruit approximately 1,600 nurses by December, 2017. We have extended that to January, because of some arrangements that we are finalising. The support for the recruitment of these nurses is partly from the Global Fund which is providing 1,200 nurses, and the rest from USAID who are providing approximately 400 nurses,” he said.
“So, by January, 2018, we should have an additional 1,600 nurses who will be recruited. But of course, moving forward, we recognise that this is insufficient because the vacancy rate, in some cases is as high as 40 to 50 per cent. Therefore, it requires us to improve on the recruitment of nurses which we are also focusing on, especially with the new grant under the Global Fund that will be implemented from January, 2018,” added Muluzi
With respect to blackouts, in Kasungu, at the district hospital, Muluzi said there are gen-sets that are also currently operational and recently installed 10 kilowatts units of solar power which he said is “ a start.”
“We are focussing on essential services, for example, maternity wing and others, making sure that there are no unintended interruptions,” he said.