BLANTYRE: Transporting referral cases from Lulanga Health Centre to the main district hospital was a big challenge for people of Sub Traditional Authority (STA) Lulanga in Mangochi.
In most cases, communities had to hire worn out vehicles or bicycles to carry the sick to the district’s referral health facility. Sadly, these modes of transport were not affordable to everyone.
Lulanga Health Centre is located 120 Kilometres away from Mangochi Boma hence making the journey on foot an unthinkable option.
Of all types of referral cases, pregnant women were the ones at high risk.
Sub Traditional Authority Lulanga (STA) says that almost one sick mother or a child was dying every month due to transport challenges.
The chief says an ambulance from the district hospital took about four hours to reach Lulanga and almost nine hours for a patient to be at the referral hospital.
Because of such a challenge, our area had a high number of deaths out of serious referral cases, he says.
But a donation of an ambulance by World Vision Malawi (WVM) in 2008 changed all that. Now after ten years, Lulanga Health Centre takes stock of how the Toyota Land Cruiser ambulance has served surrounding communities better.
Since its established in 1975, the past decade has been the best in terms of health service delivery partly due to the presence of the ambulance.
For a health facility that has an average of 10 referral cases per a month, the number of deaths out of referrals, especially for pregnant women, has decreased.
Since 2008, we have not registered a single death of any pregnant related complication, says Innocent Mnong’oneza, a clinician in-charge of Lulanga Health Centre.
The referral system has greatly improved, the hospital’s authority is always confident to handle serious cases because of the readily available transport, he adds.
For a health facility that serves a catchment area of about 40,000 people, the presence of an ambulance has always been the best thing that ever happened to surrounding communities.
Both the communities and hospital are always grateful to World Vision International for providing this ambulance.
Enifa Jimu is one of the community members who has a recollection of both the bad and the good times.
Before the ambulance came, the worry of most pregnant women was how they would get to the district hospital if there are referred there for further medical attention, Jimu says.
The absence of transport forced many to opt for traditional birth attendants. It was thought to be the cheap and easy way out but always risky, she says.
But taking such a risk, says Jimu, is no longer an option.
Pregnant women are always rushing to the health centre because they know they will get the best help.
STA Lulanga is a happy person too. The perennial challenge that communities in his area faced has gone.
In the past ten years, I cannot remember a single death related to failure by the hospital to transport referral cases, the chief says and expresses his gratitude to World Vision.
The organization is equally elated to be associated with this positive development in communities surrounding Lulanga Health Centre.
We are proud of the change our intervention has brought to the people, says Loyce Mkuzi, WVM district programme manager for Mangochi.
Our goal when we provided the vehicle was to save lives and also give people hope by reducing the pressure on them each time they are referred to the district hospital.
She adds that WVM believes that every human being has a right to life and it is not good to keep on losing people because of preventable factors such as lack of transportation for referral cases and access to health facilities and services.
World Vision Malawi has been a great friend to Lulanga Health Centre. Apart from donating the ambulance, the organization has also built an HIV Testing and Counselling Centre (HTC).
The centre is providing a number of HIV related services including the provision of anti-retroviral therapy (ART). About 1000people visit the centre every month for various HIV and Aids related services, according to Innocent Mnong’oneza, the health centre’s officer in-charge.
Since its inception in 2009, the HTC has enrolled about 1,400 people on ART.Mnong’oneza lauds World Vision for making the health centre the best in terms of service delivery through the HTC centre and the vehicle.
Lulanga Health Centre is owned by Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) through the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire and benefits from the support of public resources through a partnership between government and CHAM.
Government acknowledges the role development partners such as World Vision play for their support towards the provision of quality health services in the country.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population, Joshua Malango applauds the intervention by WVM in Lulanga by saying that it has had a great impact on the lives of people especially vulnerable populations such as mothers and children.
Malango, therefore, appeals to other nongovernmental organizations to help in improving the delivery of health services in the country.
He believes that such support is one of the ways of making the health sector vibrant in serving the people.
If we can have this kind of intervention in most districts and health centres, then universal access to quality health services is a guarantee, Malango says.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA