Thursday, 21 May 2009

Greatest and first Malawian Eye doctor joins politics

Prof Moses Chirambo, the first Malawian Ophthalmologist is now a Malawian member of parliament and minister of Health.When I first heard that he was campaigning for a seat in Parliament; I thought it was a joke. I have always known him as a great teacher, eye doctor ,mentor and father and founder of Ophthalmology in Malawi .Trained as an ophthalmologist as Hadassah University in Israel in the early 70’s, Prof Chirambo started making a name in 1972 when he started conducting outreach eye camps all over Malawi .In 1983 , he established the SADC school of Ophthalmology in Lilongwe supported by Sight Savers International ; this school has trained over 500 eye personnel from all over SADC countries and beyond ; and now several countries including Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia have started their own training programmes using the Malawi model with Prof Chirambo helping the in designing the curriculum. In 1993, under the initiative of the Prof , the 60 bed Lions Sight first eye hospital was built and opened up in Lilongwe .In 1995, Chirambo got an International ward from the American Academy for his fight in blindness; and continued to get several awards (too many to mention). He was instrumental in teaching medical students from Malawi in Lilongwe and when I initially met him as a student in 1995 I knew I would specialise in Ophthalmology. Sight Savers Projects in Malawi flourished under his leadership as a Regional advisor and we have several buses and vehicles for outreach brought under his initiative.
Prof Chirambo was instrumental in establishing other Lions eye hospitals in Mzuzu , Blantyre and Zomba. He enjoyed doing surgery, and was very fast in theatre.
Later on when we become colleagues, we socialised every time we went for outreach camps, and he enjoyed a beer after work. I remember in 2005, we operated on 120 patients with cataract within 3 days in Mzimba District. His last assignment was coordinating the establishment of school of Optometry at Mzuzu University in the Northern Region of Malawi, and this school which started in 2008 with 5 international students has already started attracting International attention. He was honoured by the President at Mzuzu University as one of the greatest medical academic achievers in Malawi.
Prof Chirambo has published extensively International and has several articles on eye care in Malawi, and his work is quoted by most authors taking about eye care in developing countries. If you go to any University eye department in the SADC countries and say you are from Malawi, you will be asked about how Dr Moses Chirambo is? He is mostly remembered for his alcoholic working standards; being in hospital as early as 7am and leaving 8pm every day.

I have had several good times and taken pictures with him for my memories, and as he retires from the eye care sector and goes into politics I will always remember him as a great mentor. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be the community Eye Specialist I am today. But I will always wonder a man who has achieved more than a lot would want to join politics?
Are you inpired?
Should such a genius be in politics? Should I follow him? What do you think?

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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Getting a pair of good glasses in Blantyre, Malawi

Since I have received an enquiry of where one can get a pair of good glasses in Blantyre, Malawi, I have decided I might as well write a blog about it.
There are several places that do sell all sort of glasses in Blantyre (for reading, for distance, for sunlight and a combination of these) and I will briefly mention all of them and give my opinion of what I feel is the difference between these places.

If you are looking for a good pair of any glasses my opinion is that you should check Penya Optical ,a private centre within the Lions Eye hospital at Queen Elizabeth Central hospital (Located at Ginnery corner) and you will get a good deal .There is a full time optometrist who will test your eyes for free within a short period of time , and if you are only looking for a simple pair of reading glasses you will walk out with the pair of glasses the same day for as less as USD 20 .If you need more complex glasses ,they will be ready within two –three weeks. This is the cheapest place in town despite having all sorts of glasses that you will get anywhere. Do not be cheated that the quality of glasses is poor; the quality of these frames and glasses is as good as you will get anywhere in UK, but at less than half of the prize.

If you do not want to go to Penya , there are several options : Prosight Optical at Mwaiwathu Private hospital and Eyecare centre located along Henderson Street ,both manned by private ophthalmologists will give you glasses but you have to pay for consultation fees to have your eyes tested and the prize of glasses will be slightly higher .You also have to book an appointment to be seen.

You can walk in at AC Opticals (located in Town at Henderson street and the other one at Shoprite, Ginnery corner), a private optical workshop manned by a private Optometrists but you must be prepared to cough in a fortune for a pair of glasses. Much as the centre claims to use a computer to test your sight /Vision (you tell me where the computer can do that!!!) and to have the latest designer glasses, you will be able to get the same ones of you ask at Penya but the prize will be much cheaper.A new place called Blantyre eye clinic has opened near TNM building Headqurters in town so you may check this one.

Mind you not many Malawians need to wear glasses (only 1 per 100 population needs a pair of glasses), unless you are above 45, then probably you need a pair of reading glasses.
Hopefully I have been of some help to you (but I don’t sell or keep glasses, and do not have a private clinic so don’t ask for a pair from me).

Do you want to get a pair of glasses from Lilongwe, Zomba or Mzuzu?

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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Reversing Doctors brain drain from Malawi

Just a few years ago, how many of us would have heard that there were more Malawian doctors in Manchester than in Malawi itself? Well, that was the time I was in Manchester too and knew many colleague doctors from Malawi (Dr Njobvu and Dr Kayira ,both paediatricians are still there ).I can now confidently report that there are more doctors in Malawi at the moment , thanks to College of Medicine ,University of Malawi who have now started producing large numbers of locally trained Malawian doctors .Last year alone 38 doctors graduated from the Medical school in Blantyre and by the end of 2009 another 60 doctors are expected to graduate .Most of these doctors are now remaining in Malawi ,as even for specialist training –this is being offered by the college of medicine too. As a record ,for the first time in the University of Malawi history ,in March 2009 ,the first 3 Malawian trained specialist doctors (2 paediatricians ,1 medical physician) graduated from the university and a further 3 are expected to finish their specialisation in September .Very soon we will be having a lot of doctors on the ground .
For those of you who are wondering why there are still very few doctors in the Governments hospital, the answer is this. The missions and private hospitals are absorbing most of the medical graduates due to their better enumeration, but this is no worry as these doctors are serving fellow Malawians than being out of the country And very soon the mission and private hospitals will become flooded and the overflow will extend to the Government hospital, benefiting the most disadvantaged of the Malawians. So we will be having all the specialists in the Government very soon.
Great thanks should go to all the Malawian doctors who have sacrificed to stay in Malawi and teach at College of Medicine.

Aren’t you excited that the Doctors crisis will be over in Malawi soon?

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

Sarcastic Blogging comments

An unknown blogger has sent me the following comments regarding my blog: Your blogs stinks , and I do not know why you still waist time writing , Infact you need to take lessons to write properly .In addition a lot of what you do (treating blind children)is exactly what you are trained to do as a Doctor in Malawi ,so there is nothing exceptional that you say.

I did not know I was upsetting other people, but I have decided am going not going to comment about their comments, but will let our bloggers say what they think. After all, I have had several other emails telling me of the good work and the hope that the blog brings to them, and these bad comments are the first .God forgive you ,wherever you are if you are the one who wrote the sarcastic words.

Do you think I should indeed shut this blog ?
Or do you just want to comment?

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Monday, 4 May 2009

Labour day a sad day for me

1st May 2009 should have been a good day for me in Malawi and it was a sunny and quiet holiday , but when the Sight Savers International (SSI) Country Representative called to meet me at a short notice at the hotel he was staying ,I knew the day was not going to end up well. So I rushed there, ordered a mango juice and eager waited to hear what he would say. “Dr Kalua, I am sorry to inform you that MOOP is dead”. Decision was made to close the programme by 31st March as so as we are speaking there will be no more outreach surgical camps that we were supporting. This decision was made because our SSI UK office has been hit hard with the global financial crisis and were asked to cut some programmes to reduce our expenditure so we chose MOOP to go .”
You mean the prestigious Malawi Ophthalmic outreach programme that has enjoyed fame over a number of years has now been phased out?” I screened!!! Yes MOOP is gone, God save us, he replied. What happened to the donor from Ireland who said they would fund 20 eye camps in Malawi in 2009, I wondered. Why wasn’t I warned before about this doom?

Well ,in a nut shell ,some of you may not have been hit by this crisis yet ,but as for some of us we are finished –our jobs have been made redundant .We are planning to go back to the UK and start the cleaning and carer jobs once again ,assuming there are still there .
And you will not be reading those stories of old poor blind Malawians regaining their Sight through outreach programmes, as the outreach has been phased out .
As I try to get over this message, I will let you know what my next job will be.
I was proud to be associated with MOOP, and I hope my team and I will be. remembered for the efforts we made to prevention of blindness in Malawi

Has the financial crisis hit you in your sector? Would you like to share a story with me , or comment on anything?

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Death of MOOP: the biggest causality in eye care in Malawi resulting from the global financial crisis

I have been quiet for a few months as rumours kept on circulating that the biggest project I was associated with in Malawi was going to stop. Its now official, I would like to announce the death of the Malawi Ophthalmic outreach programme (MOOP) whose sudden death of that fateful day of 31st March 2009 has left some of us with more questions than answers. Some of them are philosophical and include issues of brain such as “Is it worth for Malawi doctors to stay in Malawi rather than follow where there is greener pasture?”

MOOP has been in Malawi for many many years , had reshaped itself over the years but always survived .In the 70’s and early 80’s Prof Moses Chirambo,the only Malawian eye specialists enjoyed the support of Blue peter and Royal commonwealth society for the blind from UK , which later become Sight Savers International (SSI) .Under their funding he went all over the country with those old landrovers ,operating on the blind and making them see. He impact was well known that in 1983 Malawi established the ophthalmic training school catering for the SADC countries but also for other countries in Africa was well .The focus of this school was to train local eye surgeons and under this initiative ver 65 eye surgeons from 20 countries in Africa were trained.
In 1997 MOOP was restructured and secured through Sight Savers International large funding from EU which made the programme expand. The country was divided into five zones and vehicles for mobilising cataract patients were bought for each zone and several eye camps were organised in many districts benefiting the majority of Malawians. As a young medical graduate I saw what MOOP was doing and decided that Ophthalmology field was going to be my destiny.

Today as I contemplate committing suicide after hearing that SSI has dropped supporting MOOP and that there will be no future outreach eye camps in Malawi, I can not just see what life will be for me in Malawi. Why? When I come back to Malawi as an Ophthalmologist in 2002 and settled in Blantyre MOOP had a lot of funding and asked me to organise as many camps so that we could operate on many patients. I travelled the whole year of 2003 from Karonga to Nsanje and operated on over 2000 cataract patients on that year alone restoring sight .Infact it was communicated to the ministry of health headquarters that all eye care activities in malawi were to be supported by SSI through MOOP and the ministry was delighted

Thats the year (2003) that I felt the biggest impact of working as a doctor in community and vowed that as long as I was in Malawi I would give a substantial part of my time to operating in the rural areas.My whole blog is full of stories of where I have been with MOOP, and it still hasn’t sunk to me that MOOP is dead,but why? Well I was in the UK when the stories of the global financial crisis started emerging, and we were discussing that Malawi being a poor country, we would not notice the effects of this crisis .Honestly if I knew this was coming I would have made a decision to stay in UK and work there .Here is a doctor and his team who are ready to operate on many blind patients who are out there, only to be told because of the financial crisis ,those patients can hung? So what will I be doing in Malawi? Is there a reason for continue to stay in this country when you have a valid 5 year VISA for the UK? I don’t know but I believe God has plans for everything and maybe he is asking me to move from Malawi.

I rest my case for you to judge.

+ MOOP rest in peace RIP.
Born 1971
Died Prematurely 2009
MOOP, how could you have gone so early at the age of 38?With your departure some of us have no purpose in life and we are contemplating on changing continents. What will happen to the many hopeless that you gave sight to ?
We loved you, but god loved you most.

Dr Khumbo Kalua is a Malawian Ophthalmologist whose passion for the community was being served through MOOP and is very frustrated and bitter with the global financial crisis and its major effects on poor countries like Malawi. Sight Savers International is a UK based charity NGO that was supported MOOP. The decision to stop MOOP was made at short notice and centrally at policy level (SSI) without consultation of the stakeholders, the technical staff and the Ministry of Health officials in Malawi.

Can you help? Or do you want just to comment? Do you want to call me on +265 999958176 and +26588830232 in Malawi to send your condolences?

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