Karonga, August 2: Karonga District Hospital ambulances have been grounded for two months due to lack of fuel following the absence of cheque signatories, a situation that has endangered lives of people from rural satellite heath facilities.
Three drivers from the hospital told Mana on condition of anonymity that for the past two months, two ambulances and other four vehicles have been grounded due to lack of fuel.
The drivers said the hospital has been failing to routinely ferry referral patients from health facilities such as Chilumba and Iponga since June.
‘‘We are told that this is due to the unavailability of some of the signatories [of bank cheques] like the District Health Officer (DHO) and the District Commissioner (DC) who are both out of the district, and we wonder why the situation is like this.
‘‘Our main concern are the maternity patients from the referral health clinics that are currently in need of services from this hospital,’’ said one of the drivers.
A visit by Mana to the hospital at around 10 am Thursday found that indeed six vehicles were parked in their places, and some drivers were just moving around.
Karonga District Hospital spokesperson Christopher Singini confirmed that for two months some ambulances have not been operational due to lack of money to buy fuel.
‘‘I can confirm that we indeed packed up many of our vehicles starting from June this year and the reason being that for the past two months we have been struggling to buy fuel due to some problems that were beyond the control of the hospital administration.
“The hospital has been failing to get the Other Recurrent Transaction (ORT) money from the bank as our cheque was bounced.
‘‘This [forced] the hospital to borrow fuel from Karonga Diocese Filling Station. As I am speaking now, we have a debt of about K4 million to the Diocese and today we have also borrowed some 20 litres of fuel which is just [enough] for a journey from Karonga to Mzuzu and back,’’ Singini explained.
He said currently the hospital is using one ambulance which is operating on emergency services only.
Meanwhile, Singini said, the ORT for July is now available at the bank, but also it cannot be accessed due to the absence of the DC and the DHO who are out in Lilongwe for other government duties.
Signatories for money from the ORT at the district are the District Education Manager (DEM), the DC and the DHO.
The hospital receives a total of K15 Million per month.
Speaking in a telephone interview from Lilongwe, DC for Karonga, Rosemary Moyo assured Karonga people that things would be normalized saying the intended money for the hospital is in the bank now.
She, however, denied that six vehicles from the hospital are nonoperational.
‘‘Those drivers might be lying because what I know is that for the past week the hospital has been using one ambulance due to unavailability of money to buy fuel.
“And that happened because we were waiting for the transactions of the ORT monies into our pull account,’’ the DC said.
She then referred this reporter to the DHO whose mobile phone was then out of reach.