The shortage of ambulances at Phalombe District Health Office due to breakdowns is affecting service delivery as patients from distant health centres take long to be ferried to the district hospital.
According to the district’s health officials, the district has only three ambulances against 16 health facilities spread across the district.
Speaking in an interview Phalombe District Health Office Spokesperson, Daniel Chilomo, said the minimum number of ambulances required for every district is five, however due to breakdowns this is not the case in Phalombe.
“The situation is getting worse and this has affected our operations. Now we can no longer allocate ambulances to specific health centres and clinics, all we can do is respond from the Boma where the three ambulances are based,” he said.
Chilomo further worried about the life span of the ambulances since they operate day and night, which he said limits the DHO from releasing them for servicing.
An ambulance is supposed to attend to 50 thousand people located in a particular area, and it is also designed to be located to specific health facilities depending on the distance and population density of the area, according to health officials.
Commenting on the matter, Nurse In-Charge for Chiringa Maternity Clinic, Gertrude Manda said the challenge is posing huge risks to a lot of lives, especially children who have to pay the cost of delayed ferrying after being referred to Phalombe Health Centre.
“Sometimes it takes five hours for an ambulance to reach us when we call for it and since we deal with expectant mothers and infants here, the risk is very high.
“It is not easy to work in such an environment because where your clients’ lives are at risk, even you, the health worker, loses concentration,” Manda worried.
With a population of over 400 thousand people, Phalombe District relies on Holy Family Mission Hospital and Zomba Central Hospital for referrals whenever Phalombe Health Centre encounters complicated medical problems.