By: Nothvinia Sam Luhanga
Nkhotakota District Health Office (DHO) and St Anne’s Mission Hospital, have dismissed reports claiming that the Mission Hospital is denying some patients access to free medical service despite signing a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Government which allows pregnant women receive free medical service.
In September 2022, government through Nkhotakota DHO signed a one-year renewable free medical arrangement with the Mission hospital so that expectant women from some designated areas in the district receive free antenatal and neonatal service.
But Nkhotakota District Civil Society Network (CSO), acting on complaints allegedly received from some people who claimed they were being rejected despite coming from the catchment area of St Annes, called for a meeting with officials from the mission and district hospitals for dialogue on the matter.
Vice Chairperson Alifeyo Mwalukombo, said the CSOs wanted to fully understand the circumstances which were leading them to reject some patients.
Said Mwalukomo, “We want to know if it is indeed true that some people are being rejected at St Anne’s when the district was told of an agreement of them with the DHO.
“And we want to use this meeting to be told about the provisions of the agreement as the raised complaints could damage the credibility of the agreement.”
But briefing members of the CSOs, officials from the two institutions maintained that all is going on well and that the accusations levelled against the mission hospital emanated from those that are failing to understand areas which were designated for them in the SLA.
Chief Medical Officer for Nkhotakota District Hospital, Dr Jacob Kafulafula said St Anne’s has its catchment area which was allocated to them such that any patient who had crossed would not qualify for the free service.
Kafulafula wondered why until this time some people could still find it hard despite the massive sensitization campaign, they undertook prior to the commencement of the agreement.
“The complaints are due to lack of understanding and called on people to go to their designated hospitals”, said Kafurafura
He said the agreement only covers expectant women and their six weeks old babies.
On his part, Acting Principal Administrator for the Hospital, Jezman Seva assured the CSOs that the mission hospital is obliging to the agreement, and has never at any time rejected a patient from its catchment area.
“Such complaints are being raised by those people failing to understand areas which are designated for the hospital”, said Seava.
“St Anne’s is committed to abiding by what is prescribed in the agreement and continuing supplementing the government’s efforts in providing quality medical service in the district”, he added.
According to the Service Level Agreement signed by the two parties, the Catchment area for St Anne’s Hospital stretches from Sani to Kaombe River and is demarcated by the M5 road which essentially means all villages along Lake Malawi can access the free service at the hospital.
The meeting which took place at the Nkhotakota District Hospital, was facilitated by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).