The fire accident that happened at Mangochi District Hospital yesterday must serve as a serious wake up call for the Ministry of Health to put its house in order.
Just a few months ago, Mangochi District Hospital also made headlines for wrong reasons when some expectant mothers died in an operating theatre after power went off. It was established then that the emergency generator at the hospital could not start automatically. To make matters worse, the only technician who could operate the generator was away carrying out his personal errands.
The ministry can be excused on the fire since it was something that could not entirely be prevented. However, the blame comes in because the ministry did not ensure that the hospital had enough fire extinguishers for such emergencies.
Well-wishers had to use anything they could lay their hands on such as soil, buckets of water. In a desperate move, the community members even ended up throwing stones at the raging flames.
It is incomprehensible that the Ministry of Health could subject hundreds of people, including health workers, to such dangerous working environment. What is more disheartening is that most of the victims are not ordinary citizens but patients who are at their lowest ability to survive.
Pictures of patients seeking refuge under trees keep mocking us as a nation. We have failed to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.
The accident should also jerk the Ministry of Local Government to have facilities that can be relied on in times of emergency.
How does one explain the absence of fire engines in the lakeshore district? Mangochi is also a border district with Mozambique and its hospital has such a vast catchment area. Besides serving people from as far as the border areas, the hospital caters for Malawians in parts of Machinga, Balaka and Salima districts.
Such a big population cannot be carelessly exposed to such risks whose impact could have been mitigated through proper planning.
We, therefore, wish to call upon authorities to wake up from their slumber and begin to plan for eventualities.