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SHOCKER: Government has one specialist for scans

While the world advocates universal access to health, patients who have their MRI scan at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) are at risk of losing their lives due to long wait for results as the facility has no specialist to interpret major scans, Malawi News has established.

According to our investigations, the hospital is also operating with an MRI scanning machine which is on the verge of expiring.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.

Two sources, a senior doctor at Qech and a patient, who both opted for anonymity corroborated each other on the lack of specialists at Qech and one of the patient said he has been waiting for results for close to a month now.

“I did my scan sometime back but, until this very day, I am yet to get my results because they have to be sent to a specialist via email for interpretation who is currently abroad,” said the source.

The other source confirmed that there is no resident radiologist at the hospital and this is the case with many other departments at the health facility.

“I know of one who is designated at Kamuzu Central Hospital, another one knows the job but failed the exams and there is one who left the country for Australia. What this means is that patients have to wait for results. On the issue of telemedicine, there is need for people to have access to expert and have a physical diagnosis. In telemedicine, the patient is not there.

“Even the Cancer Centre we are constructing will require such expertise but, as you can see, people are trained here and they leave in search of greener pastures simply because the country has no resources,” said the source.

The source also said the only MRI scan the country has expired.

“As far as I am concerned the MRI scan is owned and operated by two institutions. At one time, government bought a CT scan which has not functioned to date,” he said.

However, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said the country has more than one radiology specialists who interpret the scans.

“The country has more than one radiologist [a person who interprets scans] and government has just signed contract for another radiologist about a month ago. In any case, digital health is the order of the day across the world and telemedicine is now being practised all over the world.

“Radiology is one branch where digital health is applied extensively where consultations and reporting can be done on line. In fact, the country has moved from analogue to digital X-rays to improve efficiency, cut costs but also improve communication among medical professionals. In fact, medicine is a profession which encourages consultations among peers and e-health helps facilitate that process without additional costs. E-Health is a way to go worldwide,” he said.

On the MRI scan, Malango said government is in the process of procuring one alongside a CT scan machine.

“We are already in the process of procuring a CT scan and MRI scan will be next and it’s already at a very advanced stage. Reporting of scan results can be done at a remote site, that is the essence of digital health,” he said.

A computed tomography (CT or Cat) scan allows doctors to see inside your body. It uses a combination of X-rays and a computer to create pictures of your organs, bones, and other tissues

Among others, the health sector is rocked by shortage of staff in various hospitals, lack of drugs and dilapidated structures across the country.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal Number Three ensures healthy lives and promotes well-being for all at all ages.

The SDGs are a collection of 17 goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030.

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