Partners in Hope responds to allegations of mismanagement of COVID-19 patients leveled against it

* We have backup power through generator and solar system which automatically provide power.

* The majority of COVID-19 cases do not need ICU services and if they do, they are transferred to facilities that have available ICU facilities

* We were among the first centres to test for COVID-19 after the first wave struck in 2020

* Our staff have received specific COVID-19 management training

By Duncan Mlanjira

Partners in Hope Mecical Centre has responded to allegations circulating on many social media platform arising from recent incidents at the hospital regarding COVID-19 related deaths.

Gomezgani Thabale posted a scathing attack on PIH on Facebook alleging that the medical centre “is killing patients” as it doesn’t have an intensive care unit (ICU) and “doesn’t have specialists”.

Gomezgani Thabale

He went further to say the hospital has a COVID-19 isolation tent instead of having a specialized ward as is the case with other medical centres and that on Saturday there was power blackout and since the facility doesn’t have back up power, three of four patients on oxygen died.

He alleged that the deaths include that of Peter Makanga, chief professional development officer at the office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP).

He also alleged the failure to maintain oxygen assistance also led to the death of Minister of Local Government Lingson Belekanyama.

But PIH explains in its statement that they have backup power through generator and solar system which automatically provide power.

PIH staff members

It also explains that the majority of COVID-19 cases do not need ICU services and if they do, they are transferred to facilities that have available ICU facilities.

The hospital explains that it does not work in isolation as it is part of national health system overseen by the health authorities.

“We continue to meet the highest standards of care,” says PIH’s Executive Director Dr. Agnes Moses in its statement. “We always work hand in hand with Kamuzu Central Hospital and Lilongwe DHO in the management and care of COVID-19 cases.

PIH Executive Director, Dr. Agnes Moses

“We were among the first centres to test for COVID-19 after the first wave struck in 2020 [and] we were among the first private and CHAM hospitals to respond to Medical Council of Malawi’s plea to provide emergency treatment of COVID-19 cases before referral to central hospitals.”

PIH continue to say that in “this second wave of COVID-19, KCH and Bwaila hospitals have been filled beyond capacity and overwhelmed with patients [and] in such cases, it is unethical for us or any other health facility to send back COVID-19 patients who are in need of oxygen and emergency care”.

This, says PIH, is in line with Medical Council of Malawi’s press release published on July 20, 2020 that reminded its members “that it is unethical and a disciplinary issue to deny patients emergency care in their clinics or hospitals irrespective of whether they have funds for payment of services or not, and irrespective of whether they have COVID-19 related symptoms”.

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“Sometimes the referral facility is unable to accommodate these patients for days and because of that we created a holding tent while awaiting referral to KCH. Sometimes we have had patients self-referring from KCH or Bwaila.”

The medical facility says their staff have received specific COVID-19 management training and that they have highly qualified professionals and experienced general practitioners managing patients in liaison with specialists internist.

“We are not aware of any hospital locally or abroad being managed by specialists on in a fight against this pandemic as that is not feasible and totally impractical anywhere in the world due to the high doctor-patient ratios worldwide — now worsened by the pandemic.

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“We are aware that this pandemic has cause a lot of grief and stress to all of us as health care providers and as affected members of society, especially those who have lost their loved ones.

“However, we plead with the general public to avoid making unfounded allegations and to contact us where they need clarification,” says the medical centre, adding that formal complaints can always be channeled to Medical Council of Malawi.

“Let us fight this pandemic together with love, unity and resilience…we urge you to always wear masks, to sanitize or wash hands with soap and to avoid crowded places.

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“We further ask that if you have been in contact with positive cases, or have symptoms, you present to the hospital for evaluation. Together we can win against this pandemic.

Despite the explanation, Gomezgani Thabale maintained his stand, and even made more scathing attacks on the hospitals management, targeting its executive director.

On December 16, 2020, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda officially launched PIH’s surgical theatre and in her speech she had said PIH has been the Ministry’s trusted partner in service delivery and has always been great at identifying gaps in health service provision and providing innovative solutions to those problems.

The surgical theatre the Minister commissioned

“I am aware that surgical conditions, receive little attention in low-income countries like Malawi,” she had said. “With the passing of time, the burden of surgical diseases has tremendously increased to a point where a third of the Malawian population is living with a condition that needs surgical consultation or intervention.

“Sadly only 3% of these individuals have ever had a surgical intervention. The 97% of the surgical cases do not get the required care for many reasons mostly due to lack of access to surgical services.

“There is, therefore, a huge unmet surgical need in our setting that requires an urgent scale up of surgical services.”

She had added that the government through the Ministry of Health and other partners is tirelessly striving to ensure that there is scale up of surgical service delivery in the country.

“The opening of a modern operating theatre by Partners in Hope will not only help improve access to surgical services but also alleviate the burden of unmet surgical service needs of the immediate community and the entire nation at large.

“I have been informed that 60% of PIH’s patients, access services free of charge — I do hope that this model of operations will extend to include surgical services.

“I am also confident that the modern theatre will undoubtedly cater for our population with excellent service delivery,” she had said.

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