300 patients on referrals waiting list, Govt needs K1.5bn

A patient being examined

About 300 patients in the country are on the waiting list of referrals to be sent abroad for cancer treatment, eye conditions and kidney transplants with over K1.5 billion needed for the exercise.

Principal Secretary for Health Dr. Charles Mwansambo says the establishment of Centres of Excellence would reduce the demand for referrals by 90 percent and the Ministry is training different health cadres to enable them conduct the operations locally.

Currently, central hospitals have external referrals Committees where a government consultant refers a patient to the Committee which then makes a decision on whether the patient needs to be referred or not and once given a nod, the recommendation is forwarded to the Ministry.

“As of now we have close to 300 people on this waiting list of course the resources are limited that’s why in our presentations we said let’s look at what we commonly refer abroad are cancers, posterior eye conditions and heart conditions.

Among others he cited the cancer centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital and the Mercy James centre for pediatric surgery as some of the Centres of Excellence.

Mwansambo: Centres of excellence would assist reduce the number of referrals  

 “We also have eye specialists at Kamuzu Central hospital that can do posterior eye surgery so all we need to do is buy the equipment for them and at the Mercy James centre in Blantyre, once we buy them the equipment for cardiac surgery especially pediatric surgery we can cut down on this waiting list; but treating these many people here at home that’s bound to benefit many people than sending them abroad,” explained Mwansambo.

Appearing before the Health cluster Committee, he indicated that in its budget, it is getting about 9.7 percent of the overall budget which has shortfalls in a number of areas.

Mwansambo was confident the Committee will lobby Parliament on its behalf to ensure that they are provided for to enable the Ministry deliver on its mandate.

He stressed on the need for hospitals to be adequately stocked with drugs but as the budget stands, most of the resources go to the central and district hospitals while Central Medical Trust has not been given the resources.

Former Health Minister Atupele Muluzi (L) captured inspecting the Cancer centre in this file photo

The controlling officer expressed hope that the budget will consider giving adequate resources to the Trust so that it stocks up and that when district and central hospitals are buying from them they will be replacing what the institution buys.

In the proposed 2020-2021 budget, the Cancer center has been allocated K2.1 billion out of the K2.3 billion needed to complete it.

With implementation period for the project running from February 2017 to June 2021, the infrastructure and equipment is at 90 percent and the remaining 10 percent is for the designs and construction of the housing for radiotherapy with equipment already bought.

Mwansambo emphasised on the need to complete the project to avoid spending money on sending limited number of patients abroad for treatment to India and South Africa