Most of the anaesthesia machines in the country’s public hospitals are near obsolete and need replacement, a senior anaesthetic clinical officer at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), William Banda, has disclosed.

Banda said most of the machines were procured in the late 1980s, hence the need for new ones.

“Most have become non-functional and we can no longer get spare parts for them. Servicing is done at local level and it’s very poor.

“These use gas and delivery of gas is questionable and this poses a danger to patients undergoing surgery,” said Banda, who also heads anaesthetic training at Malawi College of Health Sciences.

However, three visiting volunteer doctors will be in the country for a week to monitor the use of nine Universal Anaesthesia Machines (UAM) which are being used in some of the country’s hospitals.

The hospitals are KCH which has 5, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) which has 2 and St Anne’s in Nkhotakota and Mua Mission in Dedza which have one each.

Banda lauded the UAMs saying they are self-contained single machines and can function in the setting of Malawi’s unreliable electricity supply and unreliable supply of gas.

“Previously, we would have three different machines during surgery. One for patient monitoring, another as oxygen source and the other delivering anaesthesia but this UAM is easy to use because even with users with limited skills and knowledge, they can function,” he said.

He said he has since written the Ministry of Health to consider procuring the UAMs for all district hospitals because students are learning using the modern equipment.

Banda reiterated that Malawi could not reduce maternal deaths if there was ineffective anaesthesiology during operations.

The UAM has decreased costs in servicing because technicians can carry out most maintenance work.

One of the volunteer doctors, Eric Jackson, who is adjunct assistant professor in paediatric anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said anaesthesia was critical during surgeries, especially in low income countries like Malawi.

The visiting doctors are expected to visit Mchinji Hospital, Qech and Zomba Central Hospital to monitor the UAMs at work while offering assistance in other areas.

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