Joy and sigh of relief was visible among Mzuzu Central Hospital management team as they received a state of the art Laser machine which the hospital has never had since time in memorial and the first of its kind to be installed in the entire Northern Malawi.
The machine treats diabetic retinopathy, one of eye problems which affects people with diabetes . Diabetic retinopathy involves changes to retinal blood vessels that can cause them to bleed or leak fluid, distorting vision.
The 31 million Kwacha (USS43,000) equipment has been procured under a three year World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) project which started in 2015 and seeks to contribute towards the health of Malawians by enhancing the national capacity for implementation of Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma and Epilepsy prevention and management strategies.
Mzuzu Central Hospital has over 2 thousand diabetic patients and the coming of the machine will help reduce the the traveling distance by some patients who were being referred to Kamuzu Central Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital to access treatment.
“ This is a great day for us because we needed this machine yesterday to service people in the Northern region. Now we are ready to do Laser surgery on patients and help them prevent further damage of the eye. ” Said Dr. Patty Mopamboli while demonstrating how the machine operates to the people who participated in the handover ceremony.
Malawi has 8 Ophthalmologist and Dr. Mopamboli is the only one based at Muzzu Central Hospital. Mapamboli says Laser surgery might be used to help seal off leaking blood vessels which reduces swelling of the retina besides helping to shrink blood vessels and prevent them from growing again .
Asked to explain how many times is a patient is required to go through the process before getting better , he said it depends on the condition but sometimes more than one treatment is needed. Dr Mopamboli said the procedure takes an average of 15 to 30 Minutes.
His counterpart Dr. Frank Sinyiza who is also Director at the hospital could not hide his excitement over the new acquisition which he said will greatly improve management of diabetic patients registered with the hospital.
“Majority of people from all the 7 districts here in the North are in villages and they usually struggle to raise money when referred to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe or Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre reachable after covering a distance of 400km and 800 km respectively. “ Said Sinyiza.
The project has different partners which include the Ministry of Health and Population , (MoH) Baobab Heath Trust (BHT), Development Communications Trust (DCT) and Diabetes Association of Malawi (DAM) with each one of them implementing specific objectives.
BHT among other roles is the funds holder handling all procurement processes besides developing evaluation and monitoring tools through establishment of Electronic Medical Record Systems for Chronic Care Clinics (CCC).
Executive Director for BHT Martha Kwataine thanked all partners for working hard towards the success of the project and for the confidence they have in BHT to manage the project’s funds.
“In Malawi, 6 in every 100 people (6%) aged 25 to 64 years suffer from diabetes. However, many people remain undiagnosed with only few presenting regularly to the hospital, a development which consequently leads to several complications. I am pleased to observe the efforts and support being provided by the government in bringing in awareness, managing and controlling diabetes in the country.” Said Kwataine.
She then challenged the Media to highlight efforts being done by government and other players in addressing health care challenges and contribute to raising awareness on critical health concerns affecting Malawians.
In his remarks Deputy Director in the Clinical Services department responsible for Non Communicable Diseases Dr. Jones Masiye announced that WDF has accepted to scale up the project across the country thereby reaching out to more facilities.
Dr. Masiye also urged hospital staff to take good care of the machine.
“ I would like therefore, to commend our partners for their continued efforts in promoting awareness on how to management diabetes conditions. These efforts will be the key to lasting change in the way people with or without diabetes think about the condition. It is my wish and that of the Ministry to improve on the screening of diabetes in Malawi and those found with the condition to be cared for and remain in good health, which will enable them to effectively contribute to socio-economic development of the country. “ Said Dr. Masiye.
Appsamy Associates supplied the machine whose lifespan is pegged around 10 – 15 years depending on usage.
Malawi’s 2009 NCDs steps survey highlights that NCDs account for 16% of all deaths, and 6% of adult Malawian aged 25 years are affected by diabetes.
READ HOW LASER SURGERY IS DONE
Laser is usually carried out in a darkened room in clinic. Anaesthetic drops are dropped into your eye, a contact lens is placed on your eye, and you have to sit at a laser slit lamp. This is virtually the same machine as that used for the regular examination, but a laser has been added on. It is naturally uncomfortable having to keep still whilst a doctor flashes a very bright light into the eye.
Each treatment is slightly different, depending on the condition of the eye. Laser is simply a highly focused and powerful light, where the light rays are all of the same type. Therefore it can be pointed at one spot on the retina very accurately. Each bright flash lasts for about 0.02 seconds. The commonest laser is Argon Green, wavelength 530nm, but other wavelengths can be used and most are equally effective. Other types of light were used before laser was introduced.