Our contact with the work of the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre is Professor Robin Broadhead, a paediatrician and one time resident of Edenbridge.
He set up the first medical college in Malawi, which previously relied on foreign doctors to deliver health care to the nation. The hospital is the largest in Malawi with 1200 beds. All treatments are free.
Malawi – The Warm Heart of Africa - is one of the poorest countries in the world. Half the population of Malawi are children, life expectancy is about 25 years lower than the UK, and many Malawians barely survive on the equivalent of 50p a day.
There is no primary healthcare in Malawi - i.e. no local General Practitioner surgeries, so hospitals and private clinics are the medical frontline. The
public sector is severely resource constrained.
At QECH 80,000 children are seen each year.
25,000 children are admitted each year for treatment. There are 9 specialist children’s wards: and also a One Stop Centre for victims of abuse – children, girls and women and a specialist outpatient clinics for HIV care, heart disease, neurological problems, sickle cell disease, TB, renal disease, diabetes, and general paediatrics. (over 2500 children get treatment through this clinic).
The health services generally are overwhelmed by the need. Human resources have been particularly scarce and without nurses or nurse auxiliaries and clinicians it is not possible to provide effective care. Frequently, drugs have been in short supply and equipment and other resources unavailable or unaffordable.
In September 1992 a Children’s Fund was set up at the initiative of Robin and others. The fund was initially created in order to act as a stimulus to improve and develop existing health services for children at the Hospital.
For many years the Wednesday morningcongregation have financially supported the Children’s Fund. On Robin’s suggestion they now continue to support the work through the Friends of Sick Children charity in Malawi.
The work of both of these charities has seen inpatient mortality fall to around 4% ; 20 years ago it was about 15%. To be able to maintain a reasonable standard of care, just a basic workable staff complement is 50. To achieve this, at least £115,000 is needed each year.
The ultimate aim for the paediatric service that is being developed is that eventually it will be led and managed by Malawian paediatricians, Malawian paediatric nurses, Malawian clinical officers and related staff, most trained through and because of the project.