This is called a Cath Lab. It is critical to the diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks. If you had a heart attack today, they would have to airlift you to South Africa for treatment. With a heart attack you have 90 minutes to live. The flight to South Africa is two hours, that is 120 minutes of flight time only. Add the logistics of taking you to the airport, and driving you from OR Tambo to the hospital on arrival in South Africa, that is 180 minutes, minimum.
One would have thought that after the death of Bingu, as a country we would get serious enough to buy the machines for setting up a Cath Lab. Alas, that is not the case nine years later. The whole country does not have a single Cath Lab. The Cath Lab costs no more than K600 million.
Do your math. Look at the amount of money we have wasted since 2012. How many Cath Labs could we have set up? Look at the K17.5 billion plus K6.2 billion we wasted this year, in the name of fighting COVID. Look at the swimming pools we are constructing, cars we spend K2 billion on for a conference of three days, etc.
We need the Cath Lab. Most cases we send to India can actually be treated in Malawi, if only we had equipment of this kind. Where are our priorities?
We should never underestimate the need for this equipment. Heart diseases are common in the population. Every year, a thousand children are diagnosed with heart diseases. Adults are on a long queue, waiting to be flown to India.
And the Cath Lab is not just for diagnosing and treating heart attacks. It is also used for:
-Implanting pacemakers for slow hearts (a pacemaker is a device that sends small electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate or to stimulate the lower chambers of the heart);
-Implanting defibrillator (a battery-powered device placed under the skin that keeps track of your heart rate – prevents sudden death in those diagnosed with heart problems);
-Diagnosing and treating abnormal fast-heart rhythm. And we don’t have such equipment.
After Bingu’s death, there was talk of a military hospital behind the scenes. The need to have the Cath Lab was discussed, study tours to Portugal were undertaken, but there it ended. Now nine years there is nothing still. You collapse with a heart attack they have to wheel you to the airport, then airlift you to South Africa. Even so, that is possible only if you are rich or are a powerful government official. As for the poor? They will put you on a waiting list that is two kilometres long. Ask those on the list they have been waiting for years and years. Unfortunately, with a heart attack you only have 90 minutes to wait.