Covid-19 and the Prosthetic and Orthotics Centre at Kamuza Central Hospital in Lilongwe copy

Samuel Mkomera recently qualified with a 3-year diploma in orthopaedic technology from the Cambodia School of Prosthetics and Orthotics and is working at the 500 miles Prosthetic and Orthotics Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe.

He wrote this perspective piece for us on the 31st of May:

In Malawi, first cases were confirmed on 2nd April. The government instituted new measures which included the suspension of all formal meetings, gatherings and conferences. Some congested companies, shops and markets that sell non-food products were closed. People who were in such businesses and companies end up starving. Some of my family members lost their jobs while others, like me, were still working in shifts that led to reduction of their salaries. Public transport capacity was also reduced from 4 to 2 passengers per row that led to an increase in prices by double. As the figures were increasing, the government also ordered to decongest the hospitals by reducing the number of patients admitted in the wards and allocate the skeleton staff.

500 miles, as part of KCH, is also affected by the orders. Skeleton staff is allocated every week as a way to decongest the clinic. The number of patients booked to come to the 500 miles’ centre is also reduced and a maximum of 10 patients are booked each day. In order to follow social distancing, those patients booked sit on the chairs arranged far from each other to accomplish social distancing and only three patients are allowed to enter the clinic at a time while others wait on the well-spaced chairs outside the clinic. Before entering the clinic, both patients and staff need to wash their hands with soap on the bucket tap placed just next to the main entry. Those devices coming for repairs are first disinfected before handling them. All of our outreaches were put on hold and so those attending tend to live near and we have many fewer patients.

Since KCH is not giving accommodation to those patients who are not seriously sick, 500 miles patients are not given accommodation in the hospital wards. That means the patient treated should either live near or if they live further away, they need to have their own ways of accommodation in case the treatment exceeds one working day. However, this has been the problem since most of 500 miles patients who come from far areas find it difficult to find an accommodation as most of them have no relatives around Lilongwe city and they can’t afford the guest room too. Sometimes we 500 miles staff are forced to finish a lot of work within a day in pity of them as they have no near accommodation.

Our fight against COVID19 in Malawi has faced a great challenge due to political issues as there is a presidential election re-run coming on June 23. In my opinion, the election has reduced the restrictions since politicians are doing meeting campaigns and rallies that are highly congested. As of 30th May, confirmed cases had already reached 273 with a fear to double within a few days if precautions continue to be ignored.

Samuel Mkomera 6