Trustee Karen Roberts and her eldest son Sam were met at Lilongwe airport by Sister Margaret Nyirenda , Sister in Charge of Nkhamenya and her new driver Hope.
Karen and Sam were taken to Nkhamenya in the recently purchased Toyota Land Cruiser provided by Angels International and it has proved absolutely essential. The Government in Malawi are instructing all hospitals not to use ambulances to transport staff to meetings etc, (only to outreach clinics and other hospitals) so another vehicle for that purpose was crucial.
The new water system that we have supplied for the hospital last year has been very successful but they have had problems with the pump. The blackouts in Malawi are now a daily occurrence and it creates huge problems with electrical installations and it has done with the water pumps. This means that yet again there are issues with running water in the hospital. We will be funding the investigation of these problems.
At the same time we will be installing a further pump and bore hole to ensure that there is always a back up.
As explained above, power cuts are now daily, so the generator has proved itself an even more essential part of the hospital set up. However, the cost of fuel has rocketed and the hospital cannot afford to pay for enough fuel to keep the generator going every time it is needed. And it is not always necessary to have the supply throughout the hospital. They have suggested that we purchase a small portable generator for use in a particular area or for a particular patient in an emergency. This seems like a sensible solution.
A university in Cincinnati has donated an X-ray Machine and has paid for the training of personnel to operate it. (see below with picture of Dr Kalala) This is tremendous news, but as often occurs in Africa, no conversations were had with the staff, so it isn’t exactly what they needed It is a digital machine so there are no hard copies to be had of the X-rays. What is still needed (as requested before) is a mobile X ray machine and additionally 3 laptops so that X-rays can be essentially circulated around all the clinicians.
Excellent news as Nkhamenya now has two resident doctors. Ken Kmwenda has just qualified and come back to work at the hospital and Dr Bosco Kalala has joined the staff from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has settled in very well with his family and seems very committed to staying.
It has always been extremely difficult to get well- qualified staff to stay at rural hospitals when more money is to be made and there are many more opportunities to be had in the towns and cities. For this reason, Sister Margaret has informed us that she wants to increase the basic salaries of the doctors so that they are commensurate to the earnings of their city dwelling counterparts and would therefore give them more of an incentive to stay at Nkhamenya. This is a very realistic approach to the situation at rural hospitals.
This has now been open for over 6 months and slowly the clientele is growing. After speaking to locals and hospital staff, Karen has recommended that it should be open in the evenings to accommodate more people and thus earn more money. We are delighted that plans are being put in place to begin computer skills sessions for the local community at a reduced rate.
All funds raised will then be put back into the hospital. We are always looking for ways to raise hospital funds and to promote self-help.
There are 52 members of the Youth Group (18 girls and 34 boys). This group has only recently formed but had already arranged a comedy drama for Karen and Sam, illustrating how old computers and use them for their work. They were extremely keen on having access to the internet in the cafe for their projects and very enthusiastic about what they wanted to achieve. The charity PLAN International is also very interested in promoting this group and it has initiated a building project to provide them with an official residence from which to operate. It has to be remembered that HIV virtually wiped out a whole generation and many of these young people have no parents to advise and care for them. These groups essentially keep young people busy and motivated and teach them life skills.
We have been asked to fund an irrigation project on hospital land, just as we have done at Mtendere to enable the hospital to grow its own crops, be able to feed staff and patients and then to sell the surplus thus providing the hospital with an extra income. The project is working extremely well at Mtendere, so we will be looking to source funding for this project at Nkhamenya too. Food security is a huge issue in every part of Malawi.
The main problem at Nkhamenya in what has been yet another extremely difficult year in Malawi, has been the purchase of drugs. There is no shortage of supply but the cost has escalated enormously and many hospitals have simply been unable to afford buying them and many patients are left with incomplete treatments. For this reason we sent Sister Margaret £7000 in February last year as a matter of urgency to help relieve the pressure on the hospital’s finances.
Just before their departure, Karen and Sam stopped by at the hospital to see how a very young mother and newborn baby were doing. Both of them would have died had not an emergency ‘C’ section been performed in our on site operating theatre. The mother (Gloria) had no family to support her but was recovering well and the baby was thankfully fine. Sister Margaret then said that the mother had asked for Karen to name the baby boy – a tradition, if the father’s family are not involved. Karen was honoured to have been asked and suggested naming him Samuel. Sam was also very honoured and is seen below with Gloria and his new namesake.