Malawi’s hospitals hit by shortage of medical supplies


Essential medical supplies are in very short supply in hospitals in the country with patients in some hospitals being told to “bring their own syringes”.

 In interviews with the Guardian news site of the United Kingdom, health workers at Kamuzu Central Hospital said many health centres are lacking medical supplies and patients from these health facilities are being referred to the central hospital.

Some of the supplies which are in short supply include gloves, syringes, giving sets [used to administer fluids], cotton and gauze.

“Patients are being told to buy syringes when they go to the health centres. We continue to receive patients from health centres simply because they don’t have some essential supplies,” the health worker said.

The Guardian also reported that women seeking family planning implants at a health centre in Mulanje were also being told to buy syringes.

Last month, the Labour Ward at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe City was closed today due to a lack of medical supplies such as gloves, cotton and drugs

Health workers said it is difficult to assist pregnant women due for delivery without such supplies.

“Labour Ward and Theatre temporarily closed,” said a notice posted at the hospital. “We don’t have necessary medical supplies,” read another notice.

Another challenge which hospitals in Malawi are facing is prolonged blackouts. The hospitals lack funds for fuel for generators which are used during loadshedding.

Due to blackouts, health professionals are unable to resuscitate patients needing oxygen therapy, conduct deliveries in labour wards and conduct various procedures. In October, a woman died in Lilongwe after giving birth as health workers could not provide proper medical care due to blackout.

The Government through the Ministry of Health has been downplaying the situation on the ground. When the maternity ward at Bwaila was closed last month, the Government described this as false information, claiming that the hospital had “adequate supplies for all essential health services.

For several months, Malawi has been facing a forex crisis which is said to have affected procurement of medical supplies.

In September this year, the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), a rights grouping, demanded government to inform Malawians on the state of the medical supplies in public health facilities and how it intends to maintain the supply chain in the face of the forex crisis.

CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa said independent investigations had revealed that the government was struggling to procure essential drugs and medicines and that this had led to acute drug shortages.

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