MEMORY MANINGA, Lusaka
EARLIER this year, Government decided to re-align the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) by splitting it into five separate hospitals to be headed by five senior medical superintendents.
Previously, UTH was headed by only one medical superintendent who was in charge of managing the entire facility.
The medical superintendent had several administrative duties which included addressing affairs of patients as well as employee concerns.
He also had to ensure that the hospital surrounding was conducive and that the infrastructure at the hospital was in a good state.
Managing these tasks was overwhelming for only one person owing to the size of the hospital, which caters for over 3,000 patients and 4,000 employees.
This state of affairs resulted in the highest referral centre in Zambia to be cited for various inefficiencies in its operations in the past years prompting a decision to re-align it through the creation of five units to operate independently of each other.
This, however, did not mean that the five units created would not work with each other; they would always consult one another when need arise.
The five hospitals created are the Women and New Born hospital, the Eye hospital, the Emergency hospital, Paediatrics and the Adult hospital.
The Women and New Born hospital is responsible for mothers and new-borns while the Adult hospital attends to adults’ medical needs and treatment.
The Paediatrics hospital treats children while the Eye hospital is in charge of eye diseases.
The Emergency hospital, on the other hand, sees to it that emergency cases are attended to as quickly as possible.
In an interview recently, Adult hospital senior medical superintendent Clarence Chiluba said splitting UTH into five has made it easier to manage the facility.
“Managing UTH has become easier after the facility was re-arranged because as you may be aware, we used to have only one medical superintendent who was in charge of running the affairs of the whole UTH.
“This brought about a lot of inefficiencies and concerns were lodged almost every day against the facility,” Dr Chiluba said.
Dr Maureen Chisembele is the medical superintendent for the Women and New Born hospital and she agrees with Dr Chiluba.
According to her, unbundling UTH has enabled the facility to operate efficiently.
Dr Chisembele explained that prior to this, it was difficult for only one medical superintendent to make good administrative decisions regarding the facility.
She added that even the allocation and management of funds compromised under the previous administration.
“One person could not make good administrative decisions for the entire facility that is why there was even a lot of inefficiencies in the allocation and management of funds for various requirements.
“But we are glad that has now changed because each unit is managed by its own superintendent, who is able to know the needs of the unit they are supervising and make good decisions that culminate to the delivery of quality services,” Dr Chisembele added.
Besides having little or no knowledge about the unbundling of UTH, patients admitted at the facility are able to attest to improved service delivery that has come as a result of the unbundling.
A random check at the facility revealed that patients are appreciating the services being provided at UTH.
Beatrice Mutale is a care-giver taking care of her son who has been admitted at the hospital for a month awaiting a heart operation.
She is happy with the services being provided at UTH and is hopeful that with the medical treatment and care her son has been receiving from medical personnel there, his operation will be successful.
“I don’t have complaints with the services that my son has been receiving in the one month he has been admitted here. Doctors and nurses are very reliable and they are on time with their rounds and in case of an emergency, they are always here to assist,” Ms Mutale said.
Meanwhile, Ms Mutale is not the only one commending the services being offered at UTH Mirriam Daka, who has been hospitalised at the facility in the Adult hospital, also praises the medical care and treatment she has been receiving while admitted there.
“I was admitted here last week with a problem of sore throats. I’m happy with the services so far and with the improvement I have made, I will be discharged soon.
“Am also impressed with the cleanness at this facility because workers here make sure that the conveniences are clean at all times,” Ms Daka noted.
And a Mr Richard Chowa, who is working at UTH as a receptionist, has expressed happiness with the outcome of the unbundling.
He says ever since the facility was separated into five different units, workers’ concerns at the facility are addressed quickly.
“As workers, we have concerns every now and then but in the past, it was difficult for these concerns to be addressed considering that we were too many.
“But now that we have a boss for each unit overseeing a minimal number of employees, our supervisors are able to look into our concerns and act as quickly as possible,” Mr Chowa said.
The decision to re-arrange UTH was mainly provoked by a public outcry over poor service delivery, which prompted Government to split the institution.
When making the announcement in January this year, Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said Government was aware of the poor service delivery at the hospital.
“We have decided to reform UTH because things have not been well over the years and we have refused to maintain the status quo.
“For this reason, we have segmented UTH into five smaller units for better managed and improved efficiency,” Dr Chilufya said.
Strides in the delivery of good health services at UTH have, however, not only come as a result of the re-alignment.
The five first-level hospitals recently opened around Lusaka district have also helped to decongest UTH thus creating sanity at the hospital.
Several UTH specialists have been transferred to these hospitals to offer specialist treatment to patients living in the localities near the hospitals thereby reducing the numbers of floor beds at the facility.
This has enabled medical personnel to have a minimal number of patients to attend to as compared to the past situation.