PATSON PHIRI, Lusaka
JANE Changala, 28, wakes up with an excruciating toothache. She has been on bed rest for two days and suddenly the pain is too much such that she can no longer take it.
She is barely three weeks old in Bauleni township and she decides to walk to the nearby clinic for
medication, but she is told that the service is unavailable.
During her bed rest, there has been an accumulation of puss in her gums but the story she is being told at Bauleni Clinic only worsens her condition
Worse still, Ms Changala is told that after 19:00 hours, her condition is a hospital case. The nearest hospital is the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country’s biggest referral centre.
She walks home to prepare for a trip to UTH, a distance of about 10 kilometres, but she has no money for transport.
“I just wished that at least I should find a K10 for a bus fare to UTH, but there was nothing. I had nowhere else to look,” Ms Changala says, recalling the day she was forced to walk to UTH to see a dentist.
This is one of the many tales shared by Zambians seeking medication in distant health centres where specialised services are lacking.
“This is God at work,” declares Jane as she moves closer to the newly installed teeth examination machine at Chilenje Level One Hospital.
She adds: “I am required to visit the hospital every month to check my decaying teeth but UTH was too far. I feel like God is speaking to me right now by giving us this hospital.”
Jane is part of the population of about 300,000 people who have been granted a level one hospital through the upgrading of Chilenje Clinic. The new hospital will now cater for residents of Kabwata, Bauleni, Chilenje, Chalala, Lilayi, Libala and parts of Woodlands.
The hospital is a masterpiece equipped with modern facilities to take care of all common elementary illnesses that were previously referred to UTH.
It is fitted with the maternity wing, surgical and medical emergency rooms, the out-patient department, tuberculosis clinic, antiretroviral (ART) clinic and also provides cervical cancer screening. In addition, it has the casualty, mental clinic, dental department, paediatrics clinic, labour ward, post-natal section and the theatre to conduct operations.
Matilda Chiko is the hospital superintendent with 32 years experience in the field and explains what the new medical facility will offer to the people of Chilenje and surrounding areas.
“We are now attending to an average of 300 patients every day. We operate 24 hours with very qualified specialists in various fields. We can only refer extremely difficult cases to UTH, but we are a well-equipped hospital now,” Dr Chiko said.
Chilenje Hospital was born out of the Patriotic Front government’s initiative to reduce the distance between users and their healthcare facilities.
“We are able to conduct Caesarean operations from here with very qualified general surgeons, two obstetricians, paediatricians. We have within this hospital, modern X-ray machines and ultra-sound machines,” explains Manda Chansongo, who is in charge of the ultra-sound department.
The ultra-sound machines are used to scan inner body organs, but they are particularly important to pregnant women who need about two scans before giving birth.
The hospital’s dental clinic is among the busiest, attending to around 200 patients every day. Mumba Chishimba, who runs the dental clinic, also works with X-rays for teeth.
Dr Chishimba’s clinic is responsible for extracting teeth, teeth filling, also referred to as restoration, polishing of teeth and reworking molars when the upper skin comes into conflict with teeth. It is also her department that drains puss from teeth.
“I think we have adequate man-power and equipment including the necessary materials for conducting medical examinations,” she explains.
The newly upgraded hospital was commissioned on Saturday April 18, by President Edgar Lungu.
“You are the champion of health. People of Chilenje no longer have to walk longer distances to UTH,” Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya told President Lungu at the launch.
The new structure is a double storey one situated near Chilenje Police Station and the market, making it easy for people to locate it.
President Lungu told the gathering of Chilenje residents that Lusaka never had a first level hospital until 2015, and this made UTH and Levy Mwanawasa General Hospital congested almost all the time.
“This scenario severely distorted the referral system and congested higher level hospitals. We are now addressing this challenge,” President Lungu said.
The President said the service at the new hospital must be of high quality so that people in the zone avoid by-passing the facility in preference for UTH.
President Lungu challenged medical personnel at the hospital to avoid being passive by waiting for patients to visit the hospital but instead provide out-door medical services.
He said the people of Chilenje must utilise the facility to encourage Government to invest more in the hospital.
Zambia has had a history of long distances between one health facility to another, resulting in deaths that could be avoided.
Government is now taking steps to construct more health facilities to give Zambians access to good health care as close to their homes as possible.