Malawi Trip April 2022 – Report 1

Malawi Trip April 2022 – Report 1 – Mulanje Mission Hospital

Having recently returned from Malawi, Geoff Yeldham has written about the successes of the April 2022 trip. This is the first of four reports to be published over the coming weeks covering different aspects of the visit. Report 2- Existing eye units. Report 3 – Transporting equipment. Report 4 – St Montfort School

We arrived in Blantyre on 20th April and were greeted by the “chiperoni”, the low-lying cloud which often descends in the afternoons in Malawi. We settled into our base near Thondwe and prepared for a busy 10 days.

One of our main aims for this trip was to develop a link with Mulanje Mission Hospital (MMH). The town of Mulanje is located in Southern Malawi and has a well-established hospital, providing services such as maternity, primary care, paediatrics and surgery in a district of 550,000 people. During the pandemic we were put in touch with Arie Glas, the medical director at MMH, who was keen to establish an eye unit at the hospital.

The team at MMH had already secured funding for the construction of a clinic building, which will house the new eye unit and a new rehab centre, as well as the existing dental unit. We had met with Dr Glas virtually and given some thoughts and advice about the design of the clinic, but were excited at the prospect of meeting him and his colleagues in person for the first time and seeing the progress on the ground.

On arrival we were greeted by Dr Glas and given a tour of the hospital. We were very impressed by the way that the hospital is being developed and the amount of clinical activity that is happening, as well as their focus on public health and long-term sustainability. This is well demonstrated by the hospital’s new solar equipment, which is producing clean, reliable and cheap energy. They are currently generating 80% of the hospital’s electricity on site.

We were pleased to see that the eye unit is coming along nicely, with a termite resistant foundation and plenty of plug sockets for the ophthalmic equipment! We discussed the ways in which the clinic could be organised to optimise the flow of patients, as well as the potential for further extensions as the clinic grows. One possibility in future would be to add a dedicated eye theatre, however at present the hospital has sufficient capacity in its existing theatres for cataract surgery to be performed there. We inspected the facilities, checked there was enough space to store an operating microscope and happily imagined ourselves performing surgery there in the near future.

We also met Pearson Soka, the chief hospital administrator at MMH and spoke with him and Dr Glas about the plans for the eye clinic going forward and the role that Sight 2020 can play in helping to achieve these goals. We are currently drafting a formal working arrangement between our charity and the hospital and hope to publish this over the summer when it has been ratified by the board at MMH and our trustees.

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