health workers in Malawi they claim that the government is “ignoring” the severe shortages of medicines and equipment that are crippling the country’s hospitals.
Patients have been asked to bring their own syringes, while the operating room and delivery room at the main Bwaila maternity hospital in the capital Lilongwe have faced temporary closures because “we don’t have equipment/supplies with which to work,” according to a notice taped to a wall. Regular power outages are also having an impact.
The government blamed the shortages on the disruption of the pandemic and a foreign exchange shortagebut it has more than a half the drug budget since 2019. In May, health ministry officials accepted they would have difficulty obtaining essential medicines as there was not enough money.
A worker at Lilongwe’s Kamuzu Central Hospital said the government was downplaying a “very big problem”.
“Gloves, syringes, administration sets [used to administer fluids], cotton, gauze and other essential supplies are in very short supply. Patients are told to buy syringes when they go to health centers. We continue to receive patients from health centers simply because they do not have some essential supplies,” they said.
At a health center in Mulanje, some 230 miles from the capital, women arriving for family planning implants were sent to buy syringes.
The Guardian reported last year that nearly half of Malawi’s district hospitals had they closed their theaters due to lack of anesthetics.
The Malawi Midwives Association and the National Organization of Nurses accused the government of ignoring a worsening problem and instead “painting a rosy picture”.
“While our nurses and midwives face challenges on the ground, we find it highly illogical for Health Ministry authorities to claim that all is normal in health facilities,” the unions said in a statement.
“They should implement measures to ensure that lives are not lost due to lack of supplies, fuel for prolonged blackouts.
“Nurses, midwives and other health professionals are unable to resuscitate patients who need oxygen therapy, place intravenous infusions that provide a lifeline in critically ill patients, young and old, due to poor lighting, perform deliveries in delivery rooms professionally, suture tears and episiotomies. , remove the umbilical cords around the neck of babies, do manual removal of placentas, perform vacuum extractions”.
Joel Moyo, president of the Malawi Anesthesia Association, said hospitals are either unable to get medicine or are receiving expired medicine.
“For the spinal needles that we use on pregnant mothers, we are using local cannulas, which is not recommended. We do not have some medicines for general surgeries and other supplies such as syringes,” Moyo said.
The Ministry of Health blamed the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST), which buys supplies for hospitals.
Ministry spokesman Adrian Chikumbe said: “Central medical stores have delegated authority to procure and store medicines.”
The trust said it cannot buy from suppliers due to a shortage of foreign currency. Spokesman Herbert Chandilanga added: “Every hospital asks us for medicines and we would need details of the medicines that are missing and the hospitals where the medicines are not available before commenting.”