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Malawi President's air ambulance promise

Posted 21 August 2018 · Add Comment

Malawian President, Peter Mutharika, used his new year message to promise a number of health sector projects. Among his pledges was a new air ambulance, writes Jon Lake.

Some reports have suggested that the air ambulance will belong to a new state-of-the-art military hospital that is to be built at the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) headquarters at Kamuzu Barracks in Lilongwe, close to the seat of government and the presidential residence.
Though the air ambulance was to be “funded by Malawians, flying for Malawians”, and though it was said to be intended to save the lives of ordinary people involved in road accidents and other emergencies, some believe that the new military hospital and the associated air ambulance may be intended more to serve the interests of Malawi’s elite.
The establishment of the new hospital was one of the recommendations of the commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika (the current president’s older brother) in April 2012.
Justice Elton Singini said that referring the president to a public hospital had compromised his security and privacy, and recommended that a presidential medical facility should be established at the headquarters of the Malawi Defence Force in Lilongwe.
“Such a facility needs to be properly equipped with top-of-the-range medical equipment dedicated to the treatment of the president, as well as in case of death, as is the practice in most other countries,” he said. “Locating such a facility within the military compound will also serve to safeguard the security and privacy of the president.”
The commission may have felt that such a facility was necessary after a South African air ambulance was summoned to transport the “ailing” president for more acute care in Johannesburg when he was, in fact, already dead. Some believed that this had been an attempt to conceal his death and manipulate the presidential succession process.
The new health programmes will also include the establishment of a new cancer treatment centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe. This will save costs by reducing the number of patients who have to be sent abroad for treatment by at least 50%.
 

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