Phalombe hospital petition: DC evades petitioners

Communities of Phalombe district on Tuesday petitioned District Commissioner (DC), giving government five days to act on their calls to initiate the construction of district hospital promised in 2005.

However, the was little drama at the District Council’s office when the District Commission Officer, Charles Makanga dumped his office to avoid communities who had gathered to hand in their petition and he could not be reached on his mobile phone.

Officials in his office were reluctant to receive on his behalf, and Director of Administration a Mr. Kandiado who, after some resistance, agreed to receive the petition but with discontent while accusing the petitioners for flouting procedures.

The communities, under Democracy Consolidated Program funded Umunthu Project run by Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI), and led by Group Village Headman, Bokosi delivered the petition, highlighting their concerns over the delay by government to construct the hospital.

DC out: Protestors in Phalombe
DC out: Protestors in Phalombe

The communities matched peacefully from District Health Offices some meters away from the DC’s office while chanting songs lamenting government’s delay in constructing the sickbay, which will ease problems thousands of people face in accessing medical services.

Meanwhile, the communities  only have a Health Centre to rely on and the Holy Family Mission hospital owned by Catholic Church, which is a paying facility. It was noted that government spends about K5 million monthly for patients outsourcing medical services from the facility.

Referral cases are usually directed to Queen Elizabeth central Hospital (QECH), Chiradzulu District Hospital or Zomba Central Hospital. But it was revealed the match that some officials at the health centre have been selling the free referral letters to some patients at K5, 000 without diagnosis.

Speaking after handling in the petition, Group Village Headman, Bokosi retaliated that the issue was not political in nature and urged the DCs’ office to assist in speeding up the construction of the much anticipated hospital.

“This is not political but our right. We have been lied to for so long and we want to claim our right to medication and good health services. The health centre we have I don’t think can accommodate the district’s population.

“And I don’t think our President Joyce Banda, championing safe motherhood, would be happy to note that the hospital promised in 2005 with Parliament already allocated funds for it, is not yet constructed; even a single stone not yet laid,”

Bokosi wondered why government was interested in constructing a surgical ward on the health centre instead of the intended district hospital when the site was already identified and people on the land were compensated as some had already relocated.

And IPI Programs Manager, Mphundu Mjumira said they have given government five days to respond to the petition in order to address the concerns raised by the communities in the petition.

“We, people of Phalombe, hereby urge our government to heed our calls for transparency, equity and social justice and demand our entitlement to reasonable health services as provided for by Section 13 (c) of the Constitution of Malawi,” reads part of the petitioned signed by GVH Bokosi, Shaikh Abdullah Sitolo, Reverend Francis Kambeta and five others.

In 2011 the district hospital was valued to cost around $22.8 million that is for initial planning to completion and functionally stages, and is to be funded by government, Arab Bank for Africa development and Saudi Fund.

However, the cost is expected to change based on bed capacity which will be determined by, among other things, district population, disease burden and availability of resources. Phalombe became a district in 1994 and has a population of about 313129.

In 2011, deputy Director of Planning in the Ministry of Finance, Heatherwick Njati was quoted saying construction of the hospital would start by end of rainy season that year, but two years now, there is nothing on the site located at Kambona trading centre in Group Village Headman Mankhanamba’s area.

Demo in Phalombe
Demo in Phalombe
Protestors in Phalombe
Protestors in Phalombe

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