Access to quality health services continues to remain a farfetched dream for communities in Karonga and Rumphi districts, a study has revealed.
The survey which was conducted by Church and Society – a faith based organization under the CCAP Livingstonia Synod – indicates that the majority of people in Traditional Authorities (TAs) Wasambo in Karonga and Mlowe and Chapindoka in Rumphi were facing challenges to access free primary health care due to inadequate government run health centres.
The situation has left the communities having no choice but to seek medical attention in private clinics thereby digging deep in their pockets.
According to Church and Society’s monitoring, evaluation and learning manager Happy Mhango, the primary duty bearer for the provision of quality health services is government hence when other players come in their role is to compliment government efforts.
He said: “When you go to a health centre and people are disclosing they can’t afford the services it means there is a major challenge that needs fixing.
“Apart from the people in these communities not being able to afford to go to private clinics, a majority of time the study found when the people went to government run health facilities they were either told there were no drugs at the facility or were treated by a medical assistant instead of a clinical officer,” he said.
Turning to the youths, Mhango said the study found that there is a lack of youth friendly health services in the facilities especially in TA Wasambo where the child marriage rate is at 24 percent, a figure which he described as worrisome.
He also noted that government hasn’t been able to meet its side of the contributions when it comes to the service level agreements with some private hospitals.
“Sometimes that has led to people being turned back at these user fee facilities who say we can’t accommodate you as government aren’t forthcoming with their share of the same, therefore we have a challenge that we need to fix together,” he explained.
Reacting to the study, director of health services for Karonga district hospital Dr. Phinias Mfune refuted some of the findings of the study.
While acknowledging challenges with the health sector, Mfune said government is doing all it can and that some of the results found in the study are not a true reflection of what is on the ground.