Health experts working in Malawi now have the capability to take on more complex life-saving procedures, thanks to a donation of two anaesthetic machines from St Helier Hospital.
Thanks to a joint collaboration and funding from Epsom-based charity AMECA and Malawi.Kom, a Dutch charity with similar visions for a brighter future for the people of Malawi, the equipment has reached its destination after a journey of more than 7,000 miles.
Dr Paul Thomas, a consultant surgeon at St Helier Hospital and Clinical Director of AMECA, explained the importance of providing Malawian communities with medical equipment: “The people of Malawi are in desperate need of additional medical equipment and skills, and this donation – thanks to Epsom and St Helier and a dedicated team of volunteers – will really make a difference. We are proud to be a part of it, and hope that we can continue to help in the future.
“Both of the two machines required some servicing to upgrade them and fit them with new monitors. For St Helier Hospital, a more cost-effective solution in the long-run is to replace the equipment; for hospitals in underdeveloped parts of Africa however, donations of machines like these offer a real lifeline.”
Ruth Markus, Chief Executive and Founder of AMECA, said that the donation would have a positive, life-changing effect on people’s lives in the long-term:
“The key to effective help in Malawi is to be able to upgrade the pitifully challenged rural hospitals in order to reduce the patient burden on the central hospitals. The really positive results of these low-cost, high-impact initiatives are profound.
“It is difficult to express to those in the UK the emotion and the gratitude of these Malawian communities. We, who have so much at home, sometimes fail to appreciate just how privileged we are by comparison.”
One of the machines was delivered to Ndirande Community Hospital on the outskirts of Blantyre, the country’s second-largest city. The hospital is currently struggling to serve the healthcare needs of a catchment area of some 250,000 people with only one doctor, ten maternity beds and a five-bed short stay stabilisation ward. Ruth described the delivery of the machine:
“We struggled for over an hour to open the crate because there simply were no tools on site. We looked on as the local staff amazingly and skilfully used a machete to open our crate before twelve men lifted the machine manually to the ground!”
At a brief ceremony attended by representatives from The Blantyre District Health Office, the staff of Ndirande Community Hospital expressed their sincere gratitude for the donation and wished everyone involved to be acknowledged, with special thanks to St Helier Hospital.
In searing temperatures of 45 degrees, the second machine was delivered the following morning at Kalemba Mission Hospital in Bangula, in the Lower Shire region of southern Malawi. This long journey involved a precarious decent for the delivery lorry down dusty roads strewn with iconic Baobab trees. Ruth described the greeting that awaited her and her team:
“A wonderful reception committee and program of dedication awaited us attended by the entire hospital staff, as well as nuns of The Sisters of Our Lady from the local branch of the Stella Maris Mission and a local reverend from the Bangula community. The anaesthetic machine was blessed by the reverend in a new operating theatre which was funded by our colleagues from Malawi.Kom.”
AMECA plans to further assist Ndirande Community Hospital and Kalemba Mission Hospital as well as other hospitals across Malawi over the long term, with surgical training and further equipment.
The charity’s aim is to fulfil its cofounders’ aspiration to improve access to healthcare in Africa and their wish to practice medicine in rural African locations. To find out more about their work and to donate to this worthy and very dedicated charity, visit www.ameca.org.uk.
The Malawi.Kom foundation was founded in 2006 by a number of surgical specialists and other health workers from Kennemerland in the Netherlands. Their aim is to introduce llong-standing professional healthcare into underdeveloped parts of Africa, with an emphasis on addressing the poor levels of medical access in Malawi. To find out more about their work, visit www.malawikom.org/en.